In an announcement this morning the Square Enix Holdings group shared that Takashi Kiryu will succeed Yosuke Matsuda as Square Enix president and representative director pending a shareholders’ vote to take place in June 2023. Matsuda, after a ten year stretch at the top, is stepping down and handing the reins over to the 47-year-old Kiryu.
A relative newcomer to the company, Kiryu first joined in June of 2022 as a general manager of the Corporate Planning Division, then became a charmain of the board at Square Enix China, before joining the board of directors in 2022. Square Enix states the proposed change is to reshape the management team with the goal of “Adopting everevolving technological innovations and maximizing on the creativity of the Company’s group to deliver even greater entertainment to its customers around the world.”
Matsuda’s ten year run after previous CEO Yoichi Wada‘s departure is noted by bringing in partners and developing subsidiaries as well as expanding the different ways in which Square Enix games targeted global audiences. Taking the company from red to black took several years, and the development and launch of episodic games and smartphone service titles were in effort to foster further revenue growth.
Several subsidiaries were also created, such as Tokyo RPG Factory (I am Setsuna, Lost Sphear, Oninaki) and Luminous Productions (Forspoken) but were met with little success, with the former positioned to create classic-style RPGs and the latter to provide AAA experiences on par with the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series. Luminous Productions was recently folded back into Square Enix proper, following what appears to be a disappointing performance from its debut title. Other notable attempts were Hideo Baba’s “Studio Istolia” which revealed Project Prelude Rune that was later cancelled and the team disbanded. Balan Wonderworld led by Sonic creator Yuji Naka was a critical and commercial failure, followed by Naka’s messy departure in which the creator accused the company of not valuing games and fans. Naka was later arrested twice and admitted to insider trading while employed at Square Enix. Perhaps most notable were attempts to mold Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal into studios that took on big Marvel projects, which were also met with commercial disappointment and the eventual sale of the studios to the Embracer Group.
However, there were some brighter spots in Matsuda’s attempts to diversify the company’s offerings, such as the division established under Tomoya Asano responsible for creating classic style RPGs like Bravely Default, Triangle Strategy, and Octopath Traveler, mid-size budget games that Matsuda considered a strength of the company’s portfolio. Partnerships with Platinum Games for Nier Automata and Dontnod for Life is Strange were also wins. The company also began to partner with third parties to work on games otherwise dormant in its library, such as the Actraiser remake, Front Mission remake(s), and so on.
A large part of what kept the company in the black in the latter years though was the continued, reliable success of the MMO sector with the steady growth of Final Fantasy XIV after it was brought back from the brink of its disastrous initial launch. Matsuda would occasionally appear at Fan Festivals, notably revealing the Blue Mage class at an event for the Shadowbringers expansion, and would sometimes be seen astride the game’s producer and developer Naoki Yoshida during the game’s expansion announcements.
Kiryu stated his first mission will be to change the company to meet the requirements of the current era and the evolution that lies ahead, and to do so with “consistency” and flexibility.” This, he says, will come with being consistent in maintaining the company’s creativity, content, and ties with consumers, but it will also be important to approach new content and technology with flexibility and without fear of change when it comes to building new potential users. This also applies to their Web 3.0 strategy, in which Kiryu plans to continue to follow this path as he sees it as a potential to lead to the company’s next opportunity for growth.
He commented that he is a long-time fan of Square Enix titles like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, and fondly remembers purchasing the NES titles from those franchises, as well as Tobal No.1, a fighting game made by Square as its inaugural PlayStation title.
Kiryu will now oversee the continued operation of these various studios and subsidiaries, as we proceed through 2023 and the company’s HD games sector launches Final Fantasy XVI and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth in the Winter season, and new entries in the Dragon Quest and Kingdom Hearts series further on. However, it remains to be seen how the company devotes itself to other initiatives such as NFT games like Symbiogenesis and others waiting in the wings, just as faith in the technology is largely flagging and transitioning towards the next shiny object.