I recently sat down to have a chat with Sports Interactive director Miles Jacobson about Football Manager, the Universe and everything in-between. It was so big, it came in two parts - catch the first half here.
Now that half time break's over, it's time to head back into our huge interview. Keep reading for more on PSP development, the Asian market and future platforms for the Football Manager
SPOnG: You guys have a history of working on the Championship Manager series for Eidos. Their strategy now seems to be to abandon retail and offer no boxed product. What's your take on that direction?
It's up to them. I mean, I don't work on that brand. I don't know what their sales figures have been like. At the end of the day, you've got to be able to make money out of what you're doing, to be able to break even and stay in business.
If they've decided to take it somewhere else, then fine. As I said before, if you release the right game for the right platform, it does fine. If you don't, you suffer for it, and we've been victim to that as well.
I actually have no interest whatsoever in talking about our previous brand, so we concentrate on what we're doing, and try to make the best games that we can. We don't spend a lot of time doing the other stuff. I didn't know about their business model changes until someone told me last night, it... just doesn't interest me in the slightest.
SPOnG: Irrespective of the fact that it's Championship Manager and Eidos, is that a direction you see for the future? Will Football Manager go that way?
No, because we're still selling a million units a year on PC. So why would we want to stop making a game that loads of people want to buy? You've got to look at the market that's out there and entertaining the people that are out there, and if there are people that want to buy a game then why would you stop doing it?
SPOnG: I bring that point up mostly because there seems to be a move from PC developers off retail shelves and into the digital space.
But who else is? I've not seen anyone else on the PC side of things move over exclusively to online. If you look at a lot of the independents, then yes they're starting out with a non-boxed product, but the system is there for them to be able to do that now.
The guys behind World of Goo
for example – brilliant game, and started off online because that was the only distribution method they could get. It's very hard to get into shops nowadays. Football Manager
doesn't get into retail in America. We sell the game digitally on Amazon there. You've got to take each market as its own market.
You can buy World of Goo
in a box here now. The rights were bought up and somebody released it in a box at a decent price, and it's done alright. So you've got to look at all the different opportunities that are there for you as a studio. If you're able to provide the game on those platforms and it makes its money back, then you're doing quite well.
We've definitely embraced digital, but retail is still very important and will continue to be important whilst people want to keep buying games from stores. It's for the customers to decide whether they want the games delivered to them in that format or not.
SPOnG: One of the things I find curious is that you have PC, PSP and iPhone versions of Football Manager. What attracted you to work specifically on the PSP instead of say, the Nintendo DS?
Memory. It's simply about the amount of memory in the platform. Football Manager
handheld couldn't have been done on a Nintendo DS. There's not enough power in the system. We've looked at it though in the past – we've even built prototype games that run on the DS hardware.
Those haven't ended up seeing the light of day because you have to make the right game for the right platform, which I keep going back to. We've got quite a few projects that we've worked on that we've stopped. It's not even the case that SEGA's stopped them, we've actually turned around and said 'actually, we don't think this is going to make money.' And it's sad that things do come down to that, but at the end of the day you do have to pay bills.
So the DS couldn't handle it whilst the PSP could, and now we have the iPhone which can handle it too. We're very interested to see what new platforms are around the corner. Very interested in Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network and the opportunities that they could have in the long run, as well as retail SKUs on most platforms as well. It's a very interesting industry to be involved with at the moment.
But I just get really frustrated – and actually, genuinely annoyed – when people claim that a particular segment of the market is dead when it isn't.
SPOnG: Of course, a lot of people do that with the PSP itself. Some might take a look at its performance here and think 'not many games coming out, kinda dead,' but if you look at Japan...
In Japan, it's absolutely huge. But from our perspective as a developer, this could be our last year on PSP. We will be making that final decision in January, when we see just how much the platform really has dropped off in Europe. We don't have huge sales in Japan but as you say, the PSP is still huge over there. The PC market is still huge everywhere.