Interview: A new vision for Football Manager 2013
6th Sep 2012 | 15:48
"I don't agree with them myself, but there are some people that say we have become too complicated for our own good," says Miles Jacobson, the studio director of Football Manager developer Sports Interactive.
There's no such thing as a 'safe project' in games development, but Jacobson and his team build annual instalments of a series that sits at number one on the PC chart for more weeks than any other position.
But the entertainment industries are transforming at rapid pace, with more devices and services than ever vying for customer attention. Jacobson and his team are adapting to this by building a Football Manager game that can be more accessible, and far less complicated, than previous instalments in the series.
"We have to entertain as many people as possible," Jacobson tells CVG in the interview below.
"The sales and reviews and feedback has been great from people who have time to play Football Manager. But some people just don't have the time to play. If we're not able to entertain as many people as possible, I think that's a bad thing."
In the Q&A below, Jacobson goes into more depth about the Classic mode, and discusses further opportunities for the FM series.
CVG: Football Manager 2013 will likely launch after Windows 8 is released, so will it be available on all operating systems?
JACOBSON: Yeah the game will work on XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8 via desktop mode, but it's not an Windows RT app so it won't run on the cheap Surface tablets that are coming out.
There's clearly been much resistance to Windows 8 from game developers and content creators. What's your view?
I'm currently using Windows 7 and I'm not planning on upgrading.
It appears that the initial response to the Classic version of the game has been highly positive.
Yeah and the idea is that, we know we have a hardcore fan base where people drop out and people jump in. We wanted to make a game for people who have dropped out, because they still want to play it but they just don't have the time. It's the same at the studio with some of the dev team, because they've got kids and all the rest of it, and they just don't have the time to play.
We just want to provide something that all people can play. But the response has been great - there's lots of people who want to try it out and of course we'll release a demo version of it soon.
With the full game, there's also much better multiplayer options in there. We're finally bringing our multiplayer offering into the 21st century.
It seems that Football Manager is effectively being split into two - with a core version and a light version for different tastes.
Yeah and for us there's probably four versions. We also have Football Manager Handheld on iOS, which is effectively the Maltesers version of our game - "the lightest way to enjoy chocolate" - and we also have Football Manager Online, which will be coming out in [South] Korea.
Will Football Manager Online stay in South Korea?
We're not saying that it definitely won't come out anywhere else, but the initial launch is Korea only.
With regards to Football Manager Handheld, are you referring to a new version?
We will be brining out of Football Manager Handheld before Christmas on iOS and Android. I'm not sure if it's coming out on any other platforms. But we can't talk about it just yet, specifically because we don't know what the iPhone 5 is going to be like and don't know what the feature set yet.
CVG reader RobbieJ' has asked if a PS Vita version was going to be available. We thought it would be a good idea to pass that question onto you.
We actually found out by accident that you can play the PSP version of Football Manager Handheld on Vita. At the moment, this year there will not be a specific Vita version. I really like the device, I know it may not have performed at retail as much as people would have liked, but we're constantly watching to see if it does pick up. It is a really special device, and hopefully it will get to the stage where we can get something through Sega so Football Manager can be on the system.
At the end of the day, we are running a business and we need our games to be profitable, so we have to take into account the sales of the Vita version before making a decision.
So the project is dependent on the sales of the Vita itself?
Yeah, and Sony are giving it a good push at the moment so we'll see how it goes.
With regards to the iOS edition, have you played New Star Soccer?
I've been playing New Star Soccer for nine years since it was first released on PC. Simon Read, who's created the series, is a really clever guy and a lot of people in the studio are fans. But it's not Just New Star Soccer that's doing well. There's Fluid Football which is great, and then there's the brilliant Score, which is my favourite of the bunch.
The scene for sports games on iOS is very vibrant in the UK, and is driven by a group of really clever and lovely people.
Clearly you're on good terms with Simon Read, but do you consider New Star Soccer to be a competitor?
No. I don't consider many games to be competitors. All games have their own values and I don't think rivalries are a particularly good thing.
In terms of 'mind-share', surely there is an element of competition?
Well we just have to make sure that our games are as good as they possibly can be, and make sure that we are entertaining as many people as possible. We are fighting for mind-share against not just games but all entertainment and of course this other thing called life. People just have less and less time to consume things, and that's exactly what Football Manager Classic is for.
With regards to Classic, how much will people have to pay for microtransactions?
They are going to be as cheap as possible. For the unlockable features, we're looking at probably something like 69p for each - but we haven't finalised any prices. For transfers, small amounts of cash will be cheap, and of course large amounts of cash will cost more.
We don't want people to focus on that side too much, but we want people to be able to accelerate their progress if they so wish. I'm not allowed to say the word cheat [laughs].
It also allows people to play out a fantasy as a Saudi Arabian prince that can invest huge sums of money into a club.
Yeah it does. But again we don't want to push this on people. With New Star Soccer, I had spent a lot of money on in-app unlockables straight away, and that kind of ruined the experience for me. So we want to balance this carefully.
I was actually playing Classic mode last night, and I really wished the in-game features were available, because I've now had four work permits turned down on players that I really want in my team.
So the microtransactions definitely allow you to progress faster in Classic mode, but you don't have to buy anything. You can play the game for fifty seasons without buying anything.
With Sega relying on the success of Football Manager more than ever, do you feel more pressure to deliver for the company?
Not at all. Sega has been brilliant. They literally leave us alone, they have great territory teams as part of the new structure, and it's very strange having as much freedom as you like.
Finally, as a foot-note, it's great to see you're adding in a director of football into Football Manager.
I imagine it will be a relationship you have to maintain over your career, which of course could make the whole progression more interesting.
Yeah definitely, and the director of football works in different ways in relation to how you want them to work with you. You can let them get on with the transfers, or you can build your own shortlist for them to pursue. It's a feature we've thought about for a while.