There’s been some confusion over the leadership of Square Enix recently, with the company announcing that its president and CEO of 10 years, Yosuke Matsuda, would be handing over both roles to Takashi Kiryu… and then business continuing as normal. It appears the handover period is now complete, however, with Kiryu taking to the stage at the Final Fantasy 16 pre-launch celebration to announce his appointment, and instantly win the hearts and minds of Square Enix fans.
Kiryu appeared after the latest trailer for Final Fantasy 16, and immediately began milking the applause for the game, encouraging the crowd’s cheers. Then he launched into a remarkable reminiscence about his childhood, his own connection to Square Enix’s games, and sleeping in class because you can’t stop playing games.
“Welcome to this celebration for Final Fantasy 16,” said Kiryu. “We thank you for being a part of our show, but when I say our show I mean all this is your show. Our fans whose constant support over the years have driven our developers over the years to achieve miracles: as for me, I’m just a fan like you. A fan who is honored to serve as the new CEO of Square Enix”.
Our man is just getting warmed up, and this is when you start to realise Square Enix has made a really good choice.
“Now, I dunno how you felt when watching that trailer,” said Kiryu. “But I felt like a kid again. Like a young boy in winter in 1987, who loved RPGs, who loved Dragon Quest, which came out the year before, and was amazing. I had to get my hands on the big new thing, so as a reward for helping my parents pick oranges, and after begging them for an early Christmas gift, my father bought me the very first Final Fantasy”.
A minute or two into his first big public presentation, and the crowd is already hanging on Kiryu’s every word. It is abundantly clear that this is not something cobbled-together by a speechwriter, but a personal and meaningful memory for him: one that he’s sharing in a room full of people who probably all have something similar in their childhoods. The crowd’s beginning to cheer and applaud as he talks.
“Right off the bat, I was surprised,” continued Kiryu. “No title screen! Just some story text. I started to wonder if maybe my father had bought the wrong game!
“But I kept playing, and kept playing, and eventually I left the castle and crossed the bridge and then: the screen changed. That music, that moment, when the title appears, that surprise, that delight, is still seared into my memory.
“From then on, I was hooked. I was a Final Fantasy fan for life”.
At this point Kiryu could have said more-or-less anything, because the crowd’s decided this guy is the greatest CEO they’ve ever seen. Somehow it gets even better.
“Whenever a new title came out, I had to make time to play,” said Kiryu. “Forget homework, forget eating, forget sleeping! I sleep in class anyway. My friends got into sports or other activities, but I was focused on games.
“And yeah! I had more than a few teachers tell me, if you play games all the time, you are not going to succeed in life. But! They would be very surprised to see me standing on this stage right now with you!”
I mean… that’s a dream moment right there. All of us who love games have had these times in our lives, big and small, where someone frowns on the hobby or says something dismissive about how you’re spending your time. Those teachers that lumped games in with things like smoking behind the bike sheds or bunking off. With the ice cold politeness of a Japanese executive, Kiryu smokes ’em and, in an instant, becomes a Square Enix fan favourite.
Who knows where his leadership of Square Enix will go from here, because one worrying suggestion is that Kiryu is just as interested in NFTs and web3 nonsense as his predecessor Matsuda was. But as first impressions go, this one is hard to beat.
“I believe games offer infinite possibilities,” ends Kiryu. “They have the potential to alter the course of our lives. As the new CEO of Square Enix I will continue to cherish those childhood memories that instilled in me a gamer’s spirit, and strive to deliver to all of you, all of the fans across the world, that entertainment that promises new and unforgettable experiences”.