With new virtual reality devices in the works from Facebook-owned Oculus VR, Sony, Valve, Samsung, and HTC, John Riccitiello believes his company—San Francisco’s Unity Technologies, which makes a gaming development platform of the same name—will lead the way for virtual-reality gaming and experiences.
“At least 90, if not 95 percent, of all content built so far for VR has been built on Unity, which gives you a sense of our market position,” the CEO says. “The promise of VR is in these super powerful headsets that change your experience. If you try a demo from Valve or Oculus or even the Microsoft HoloLens, they’re not just good, they’re staggering. We’re going to see a giant industry grow up and at the center of that industry is going to be the Unity development tool set.”
Riccitiello says virtual and augmented reality—VR and AR for short—are going to change entertainment over the course of the next four or five years. But the technology that underpins them is still immature, and no company has actually shipped a commercial product yet. (Sony plans to launch its Morpheus VR system in early 2016.)
Riccitiello has worked in the video game industry since 1997, where as chief operating officer of Electronic Arts (EA) he helped grow it into the biggest game publisher in the world. He joined Unity in October 2014.
In an interview with Fortune, Riccitiello says VR stands out from the many innovations in gaming that he’s observed in the last two decades.
“Touch screens gaming grew the industry from an audience of about 200 million people to over 2 billion people because it dramatically reduced complexity and it made games accessible to everyone,” Riccitiello says. “What VR does is transport people into the environments that the game creators have built. Right now we’re only seeing the very beginnings of the innovations that are possible with such powerful tools and amazing experiences.”
“High-end VR will probably not be accessible by the masses initially, while devices like Samsung Gear VR will be,” Riccitiello says. “What you’re going to see is some awesome singular experiences, whether that’s a great experience in mobile or on other platforms.”
In recent years, Riccitiello has been working with Oculus VR to integrate its Unity 5 platform into the Oculus development kit. (Indeed, Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey was on stage during the Unity 5 press conference at the 2015 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco to discuss the role the technology has played in allowing developers to create VR experiences for its Oculus Rift headset and Crescent Bay, a retail prototype.) Unity offers free access to its platform for individuals and development studios with less than $100,000 in revenues or funding; for the rest, it charges $75 per month or $1,500 for a perpetual license. The technology competes with Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4 and Crytek’s CryEngine 3.
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