Sports Interactive has confirmed that its forthcoming football management MMO will be released with little fanfare this year in a limited capacity, with a full roll-out expected in early 2009.
Football Manager Live is finished according to SI's studio director Miles Jacobson, but the developer will continue beta testing after release, with plans to add content every three or four months.
"Football Manager Live will be released, but we're not having a release day, or anything like that," confirmed Jacobson, in an exclusive interview published today.
"So this year there'll be a limited amount of game worlds launched, which are available at the moment for people to pre-order, and they should be released before the end of the year. Then there'll be a proper push on FML early next year."
As well as a soft launch for the MMO, new content will be based partly on user feedback, but Jacobson denied he was exploiting consumers by using them for 'free' beta testing purposes, stating that the company intends to start off slowly rather than risk promising too much on day one and losing consumers after the launch hype.
"The model that we're using for developing the game we've dubbed 'constant development' - so there are no plans to have expansion packs or anything like that, we're going to be adding new features every three-to-four months," said Jacobson.
"There'll be people playing the game, and those people will be part of the decision-making process to some degree on what does and doesn't go in, because they'll be able to tell us what they want to see in the game.
"The plan for the game has always been that," he continued. "We've seen a million different problems for people who have tried to just launch an MMO straight away. We'd rather build it up slowly and retain that audience in the long term."
With a limited release before the end of the year, Jacobson added that the team is already working on its first update scheduled for January.
"The first version is done, and we're planning for the first update, which should be out in January - and then every few months from there. The game development team are currently working on the code for that January update."
The muted launch for large online titles is becoming increasingly common. Electronic Arts' free-to-play Battlefield Heroes is following a similar method of gradual release, and Sony's social PlayStation 3 space Home is also expected to be a low key affair.
For the launch of the game, Jacobson said the team was following a model set by consumer goods, rather than videogame releases.
"We've looked outside of the games industry model for how we wanted to launch this, and we've looked more at consumer goods really," he revealed. "Some Fast Moving Consumer Goods, in the way that they launch in limited markets initially, and then grow over time."
The full interview, where Jacobson talks about the game as a service, subscription models for the MMO and the in-game economy, can be read here.