Junichi Masuda, Game Freak’s former managing director and one of the company’s founding members, has stepped down from the role, to take up a new, far more senior position as The Pokémon Company’s “Chief Creative Fellow.”
Masuda has had a pivotal role in the creation and development of the Pokémon franchise. A programmer on the very first Pokémon Red/Blue (and indeed 1996's Japanese Pocket Monsters), he went on to become director of the mainline series from Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire to Pokémon X & Y. Alongside these roles, he frequently created the music for the series too, as well as being directly involved in naming and designing many of the monsters. Now, he’s ascended to a far more powerful position, with responsibilities for the Pokémon franchise as a whole.
The developer worked on every mainline game in some capacity, and was even the person who wrote the base game concept document for Pokémon GO.
In 2018, Masuda made it clear that he was ready to move on from directing Pokémon titles, telling the official Pokémon site that Let’s Go, Pikachu, and Let’s Go, Eevee, would be his last time at the helm. He wanted “the younger generation” at Game Freak to get a chance with the series.
Four years later, and he’s officially left the studio, but not the franchise. Taking on splendid title of The Pokémon Company’s Chief Creative Fellow (which sounds like it should be one rank up from Top Ideas Chap), where it seems his role will be continuing his innovative approach the the pocket monsters. This new title gives him far greater responsibility for Pokémon overall, including the card game, screen adaptations, brand management, manga and so on.
This is a significant move for mainline Pokémon games too, given Masuda’s constant involvement with the series from its creation. It means Pokémon Scarlet and Violet will be the first main entries in the series with which Masuda won’t have been directly involved, which will likely give newer developers a better chance to imprint on the games.
“I would like to express my heart-felt thanks to all Pokémon fans,” Masuda says in a statement. “I hope to transcend the boundaries of video games by trying to offer greater surprises, fun and excitement to people all over the world, while doing my utmost to connect people, expand the circle of ‘play’ and to help bring about a richer world for us to share.”