Game Freak director and co-founder Junichi Masuda is stepping down from the company. After more than 30 years with the Pokemon studio, Masuda will now join The Pokemon Company as its Chief Creative Fellow, where he hopes to "transcend the boundaries of video games".
Why is Junichi Masuda leaving Game Freak?
Masuda's departure was announced through a post on the official Japanese Pokemon Company website. No reason was given for his decision, but it sounds like Masuda wants to branch out and work on other Pokemon-related products besides video games. The Pokemon Company says he will "develop new services and products" at the company using his understanding of the Pokemon brand. For his part, Masuda himself says he wants to "expand the circle of 'play'" and offer more "surprises" to Pokemon fans.
Masuda is one of the three founders of Game Freak, alongside Satoshi Tajiri and Ken Sugimori. Together, the trio would head up the development of the Pokemon franchise, which is still the most financially successful media franchise in the world today. Although Masuda's name is closely associated with Pokemon, his first solo directing credit on the series was for 2002's Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. He would go on to direct every major new installment in the series up until 2016's Pokemon Sun and Moon, when Shigeru Ohmori took over directing duties (a role Ohmori would reprise for 2019's Pokemon Sword and Shield).
Of course, just because Masuda isn't directing new Pokemon games anymore, that doesn't mean he's out of the loop when it comes to the franchise. Masuda's latest credit on a Pokemon game is as a supervisor on the rather excellent Pokemon Legends: Arceus, but he was also credited as a director and composer on 2021's Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, which helped the Nintendo Switch soar to a new weekly sales record in the UK and Europe around the time of its release.
So what's next for Junichi Masuda and Pokemon?
We'll likely have to wait a little while to see what Junichi Masuda intends to accomplish as The Pokemon Company's Chief Creative Fellow, but we do know what's next for the Pokemon franchise as a whole. The next major Pokemon game is Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, which launches for Nintendo Switch on November 18th. Although Masuda likely won't be directing those games, he'll almost certainly be involved in a supervisory or production capacity. It's likely he'll continue to oversee and shape the creative direction of the Pokemon franchise in his new role at The Pokemon Company as well.
We'll have to wait and see what Junichi Masuda has in store for the Pokemon franchise in his new role. In the meantime, you can pre-order Pokemon Scarlet and Violet over on the Nintendo eShop right now if you like. If you're a fan of the direction Pokemon has been taking under Masuda's watchful eye, then rest assured that it's unlikely too much will change in the future. If not, well, this might not be the major overhaul you've been hoping for. We'll bring you more on this as soon as we get it.