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Management Buy-Out: SI boss on selling to Sega

GamesIndustry.biz: Sports Interactive has enjoyed great success as an independent developer over the last decade - why make this change, and why now?

Miles Jacobson: We've got on amazingly well with Sega since we signed - they have left us alone on the development side of things, and got involved when we've asked for help, and you can't ask more for a publisher. So, rather than being a foster child, when the offer was made, it made sense to become fully adopted!

We weren't expecting it to happen like this, but we're delighted that it has done. Nothing is changing at the studio - all of the team are staying, and we're carrying on as normal, but in the long term will have a massive amount of tech to look at, and the ability to expand if we need to or want to.

How much is the deal worth?

Circa GBP 30 million.

Will Sports Interactive change at all following its acquisition? Will there be any job losses?

No losses at all - we're currently advertising for a junior coder and a mid level coder to join the team. On the dev side of things, there will be no changes, apart from positive ones for the future.

SEGA made a point of stressing its desire to help Sports Interactive expand - is anything in the deal announced today contingent on this?

No - not at all. It means we've got the ability to expand in the future should we need to, with more resources than we had available before. Which is a bit of a win-win situation!

Many would cite your role in the company's promotion and development, particularly your hands-on approach to media and corporate relations and handling of the split from Eidos, as crucial to the company's success. How will this deal affect your role?

We're a team at Sports Interactive - no one person can take credit for anything that's gone on. I'm the "public face", but the team do most of the work!

My role isn't really changing, except I'll be able to spend more time in the long term being creative, which is great for me as it's what I enjoy doing most.

Championship Manager and latterly Football Manager have been Sports Interactive's core business over the past decade - do you foresee that changing at all over the next ten years?

I think Football Manager will remain our core business, but we'll be continuing with Eastside Hockey Manager and Out of the Park baseball too and would all be delighted if one or both of those was snapping at FM's heels.

Sports Interactive is synonymous with Football Manager, but as you mentioned, you've recently expanded into ice hockey and baseball management - how are these titles faring, and how do you see them benefiting from the acquisition?

Eastside has had a solid start and some of the innovation going into the game currently is very special, but no release date is set yet. OOtP is coming out in May and the first iteration will be pretty much unaffected by today's news as most of the plans are already set in stone. In the future, having more resources available, and the strength of the Sega team globally, can only help both of the games.

When do you expect to announce the "new ventures" alluded to in this morning's announcement?

Some will be announced in the coming months, some are R&D projects that may, or may not, lead to announcements in the future.

How will the SEGA acquisition benefit fans of your games?

The acquisition can only help really - extra staff if and when we need, lots of new technology available to us, with the current team staying in place. But that's all long term - at the moment we are just concentrating on making the games we are working on and those plans have been in place for some time. SI will continue to grow organically; just as we have over the years we've been making games.

Finally, how does your relationship with SEGA compare to your experience with Eidos?

We had a lot of great years working with Domark & Eidos, but Sega felt like home from the first meeting we had with them. They really understand development and developers, and it is an honour to have the chance to continue working with them for the long term.

Miles Jacobson is the managing director of Sports Interactive. Interviewed by Tom Bramwell

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Tom Bramwell

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Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.