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The MMO Challenge

Sports Interactive's Miles Jacobson updates us on the progress of Football Manager Live, and the company's business models

Sports Interactive has, over the years, cemented itself as a key UK developer thanks largely to its market-leading Football Manager franchise which all but guarantees a healthy annual income for parent company SEGA Europe.

Late last year the company launched an MMO, Football Manager Live, and GamesIndustry.biz recently caught up with studio director Miles Jacobson to find out how the title was coming along.

GamesIndustry.biz Explain the process of launching Football Manager Live.
Miles Jacobson

We actually launched it as an online retail game last October, it was a couple of weeks before Football Manager 09 came out - we pushed the button on the first live, paying game world.

But we didn't market or PR it, and deliberately kept it very much under the radar, partly because of FM09 and partly because we've said at every step of the way that we want to start small and build it up from there. It certainly worked for the franchises that we've worked on as a studio, so the 'official launch' was basically when we started doing PR.

We've still only officially launched in the UK, we haven't done any PR or marketing outside of the UK at all. The process is very different to a boxed game, and the process we've decided to use is pretty different to a lot of the routes that the higher profile MMOs have used. We're using elements of the approach that maybe EVE Online, RuneScape and those kinds of games - which have grown virally over long periods of time to get their subscriber bases. We just believe that's a better model than the huge hype, massive launch MMOs that all seem to be opening with a lot of fanfare and not necessarily being there a year or two down the line.

GamesIndustry.biz That said, you do effectively - as a company - already have a large subscriber base with respect to your annual Football Manager titles.
Miles Jacobson


GamesIndustry.biz So it's not like an invisible start, or building up from nothing - there's already a solid base of people that you can market to.
Miles Jacobson

Yes, we do - if the two games were very similar and appealing to exactly the same audience... then to be honest we'd be pretty stupid to launch a game competing with ourselves.

Football Manager Live is deliberately aimed at a slightly different consumer to that which plays the Football Manager games. We are aiming it more at the Fantasy Football user, to maybe people that don't have the time to play its brother title - so while they're still football management games they are quite different in the way that they play, with the amount of mind share that you have to give them.

GamesIndustry.biz There's probably still a fair bit of crossover though?
Miles Jacobson

I'm sure that there is a lot of crossover, especially at this early stage. In the longer term we want the crossover to be a similar percentage of the Football Manager users, or maybe a bit higher, but we certainly don't envisage all FM players also playing FML.

Otherwise we'd have been stupid to do this - we want to do this to expand to a broader audience, and be able to entertainment more and more people. If there's some crossover there's fine, but we want there to be extra people playing FML.

GamesIndustry.biz Could it work the other way, converting people from FML to FM?
Miles Jacobson

To be brutally frank, we just want to entertain people, so it doesn't matter to me which of our games they're playing, as long as they're trying them and having the chance to play. There are a lot of football fans out there who have never played one of our games and might not even know these kinds of games exist. They may well play Fantasy League, and so on, and those are our future consumers because we've done very well with the Football Manager games in what is a niche market - we've become quite a large niche with the amount of people playing it.

But we're still only scratching the surface of football fans, so we want to be doing much better than we are now on a sales basis. It's weird for me to say that, because however many week at number one on the PC charts we have, we still want to be doing a lot better - and FML will hopefully give us that chance.

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Phil Elliott avatar

Phil Elliott