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The Evolution of Football Manager Games

When most people think “football game” the image conjured up is of Pro Evolution Soccer or the monolith that is the FIFA games series. Perhaps Mario Smash Football.

However, while there are millions of people who’s sporting fantasy is to be the next Robert Lewandowski, there are also 59.3 million people in Europe who play fantasy football each year, taking the imaginary club director’s chair to craft a team of their own.

For those people, Football Manager, as it is called now, is the perfect game, allowing them full control over the club of their choice. While the game is now a byword for sports club management game, it very nearly didn’t make it out off of its creator’s bedroom PC.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the creation of the Football Manager games and how they evolved into the fantastic games they are today.

A Passion Project


The idea of Football Manager, originally called Championship manager, came about in 1985 when two brothers Paul and Oliver Collyer decided that they wanted to make their own football management sim.

The brothers were football fanatics and had tried other football management sims, such as League Division One and Mexico ‘86, and hadn’t been satisfied with any of them. Determined to improve on what was already on the market, the brothers set out to create their own version.

The game took six years to develop, for the simple reason that there were only two people working on it and those two people were first in school and then in college. There would be six-month breaks in the development as one or both brothers lost interest and wandered off to play something else, like Doom.

Finding A Publisher


Once the brothers had a finished product, they needed a publisher for it. Initially, the game got a lot of no’s.

One of the initial issues with getting the game published was the lack of graphics. Football fans and game publishers associated football games with series like FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer with full 3D graphics and direct control over the players, not, as one publisher described it, a "spreadsheet simulator."

Instead of controlling the players in-game, Football Manager used a set of stats for each player and Random Number Generation (RNG) software, more similar to an RPG like World of Warcraft or Knockout Poker than a traditional sports game, to determine the outcome of the matches. This lack of graphics and, in fact, any real moving parts, spooked publishers. Electronic Arts (EA) even demanded the brothers add graphics to the game before they would consider it.

Finally, publishing house Domark, who eventually went on to become Square Enix Europe, agreed to put the game out on the Amiga and Atari ST. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive.



Onwards and Upwards


Hot on the heels of the first game came CM ’93, which was the first to include real player names, something that really caught players’ attention.

After a brief diversion to cover Italian football in CM Italia, the Collyer’s game development studio, Sports Interactive, started work on the first full sequel, Championship Manager 2.

CM2 would go on to become a huge hit, spawning two expansions for the 96/97 and 97/98 seasons and gaining much critical acclaim.

Getting the Right Numbers


From the beginning, Sports Interactive put great emphasis on being accurate in their assessment of clubs and players. Having moved on from their use of the Rothmans Yearbook, a yearly book of statistical information on the previous season in English football, SI decided to reach out to region football publications to get the information straight from the people who were actually at the matches.

This small team has now grown into thousands of fans who cover 2,200 major clubs in 51 countries and around 2,000 lower league clubs, mostly in Europe.

The quality of information being received allowed SI to accurately rate clubs and players, and even up and coming players who had the potential to become world-class.

A Footballing Legacy


Football Manager has gone on to become a foundational football game, going from a team of two to a team of 110, which still includes the Collyer brothers. It’s made such a large impact that it even got its own documentary in 2014 and continues to allow players all over the world to live out their dreams of piloting their favourite team to glory.

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FM BLOG: The Evolution of Football Manager Games
The Evolution of Football Manager Games
In this article, we’ll be looking at the creation of the Football Manager games and how they evolved into the fantastic games they are today. While the game is now a byword for sports club management game, it very nearly didn’t make it out off of its creator’s bedroom PC.
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