Final Fantasy XI producer Akihiko Matsui will be stepping down from his role, to be replaced by director Yoji Fujito. This announcement came by way of the game’s official website today, wherein Matsui shared his reflections on the project.
Matsui started as a battle designer the company’s first MMORPG before moving to the director’s chair in 2010, ten years after he joined the project. After a stint as Final Fantasy XIV‘s lead combat system designer for the successful A Realm Reborn relaunch, he returned as a producer on Final Fantasy XI after Hiromichi Tanaka’s departure until the present day. He is often seen on short broadcasts with director Fujito sharing information about monthly updates coming to the game.
Of course it shouldn’t be forgotten that Matsui’s resume is quite impressive, even aside his long career leading Final Fantasy XI. Starting off as a battle designer for Final Fantasy IV back in 1991, he would come to work on other beloved 16-bit era RPGs like Final Fantasy V, Romancing SaGa 2, and a little game called Chrono Trigger which he also directed. Moving into the PlayStation, he also worked on the SaGa Frontier and as a game and systems designer on the excellent Legend of Mana.
Matsui started by thanking players for helping celebrate the 20 years of operation Final Fantasy XI has endured. Assuaging fears that the game was approaching an imminent shutdown, he noted that his approach to the later years of the game’s service were more conservative in hopes to keep the game running as long as possible. In fact, it was director Fujito that had proposed recent large scale infrastructure such as revamping the installer and adding a term filter, instilling confidence in Matsui that he was well-suited to take on the producer role.
He reflected on the various challenges he and the team faced, including the launch of the Seekers of Adoulin expansion in 2012 and navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic with a small team who were able to carry on their duties and keep the game running.
Yoji Fujito will take on role Matsui and Tanaka had before him, and confessed he felt a lot of pressure, and pledged to give his best. Fujito joined Square Enix to work on 1997’s Einhander and Parasite Eve II before moving to Final Fantasy XI.
He shared that the current Final Fantasy XI team is dedicated to the game, with some developers serving exclusively on the team for many years. To remain on the team would mean giving up new potential opportunities in their careers, working with new technology not limited by decades-old infrastructure. Therefore Matsui has decided to downscale the scope of the team so that there’s more leeway for the operation of the game to continue. In doing so, the version updates we’ve seen monthly will become more compact as the team works to stabilize their development environment for the medium and long term.
That doesn’t mean there will be no updates going forward to the game’s content, and 2023 will see more Ambuscade, Prime Weapon reforging, and Master Trials.
Fujito shared that they are also working on replacing the backend hardware which supports the game, which may involve longer maintenance periods, and he asks for players’ understanding as it’s necessary to for the long-term operation of the game. They also want to hold live events again as COVID-19 was a barrier to in-person gatherings.