“WE DISCUSS VANA’DIEL” is a series of conversations between Producer Matsui and special guests who are familiar with FINAL FANTASY XI (FFXI).
Our ninth guest is Yosuke Matsuda, the President and CEO of Square Enix. How did President Matsuda, the head of Finance and Accounting when FFXI launched, view the FFXI project? In this first part of the conversation, Mr. Matsuda spoke about how he entered the game industry.
President and CEO of Square Enix. Following his career as a certified public accountant (CPA), he joined Square (now Square Enix) and was primarily responsible for the company’s financial and accounting operations. In 2013, he was appointed President and CEO of Square Enix and Square Enix Holdings.
Drawn to the game industry by the scope of its businesses
At last, we have a chance to talk with President Matsuda. Such an opportunity is rare, so I’d like to talk about games since they don’t come up very often in normal interviews.
No, no, talking about business is fine by me. (laughs)
Since we’re here, please tell us about your formative experience with games.
My old man loved new things and often bought cutting-edge home appliances and gadgets, like a huge VCR when it first appeared on the scene. One day, he purchased a ping pong game that connected to the TV, which became my first encounter with gaming. I was still in elementary school at the time, but no one else in the neighborhood or among my peers had one, so we all got really into it.
If you were in elementary school, that’d be around the 1970s, long before the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released. Was the NES your next experience with games?
Actually, my next obsession with games was during the Space Invaders craze*. The countryside of Toyama Prefecture where I was born didn’t have anything grand like “Invader houses” or arcades, but there was a small drive-in along the national highway that had a Space Invaders arcade cabinet. My friends and I used to go there all the time. I remember my mom would warn me, “Don’t play Space Invaders, you’ll become a delinquent!” (laughs wryly)* Space Invaders, the arcade game released by TAITO in 1978, was a major hit in cafés all over Japan. The game was so popular that there were even arcades dedicated solely to Space Invaders, known as “Invader houses.”
Since arcade games were still new at the time, the general public had a strong perception of arcades as hangouts for delinquents, though opinions gradually shifted with the popularity of "crane games" (claw machines) and photo sticker booths.
Since things were like that, I was playing video games behind my parents’ backs, but to tell the truth, I barely touched the NES. I knew about the ongoing NES craze through the news, like when DRAGON QUEST was released in 1986, but around that time my college graduation was drawing near and I was busy looking for a job.* After landing a job, I was busy with work and estranged from games for a while.* Mr. Matsuda joined Mitsui Life Insurance Company (now Taiju Life Insurance Company) after graduating from the University of Tokyo.
And from there, you ended up joining Square in 1998. How did that come about?
At the time, I’d left the company to become an independent CPA, and through that field of work, I became interested in the entertainment business. Back then, numerous companies in the entertainment industry were launching a wide variety of enterprises. The scope of their businesses was large, exciting, and advanced, and I wanted to get more deeply involved.
Was there a reason the game industry caught your eye out of all the forms of entertainment?
I had two reasons, one being the short history of the game industry, which I felt was potential for more growth. The other reason was the wide scope of businesses in the industry, which I intuitively believed would be worth the challenge. It was when I was looking for a game company in such a manner that I met Mr. Takeichi*, who invited me to join Square.* Tomoyuki Takeichi, former President of Square.