When you think about football games, your mind probably drifts to FIFA, or perhaps PES and Football Manager.
You probably don't think of Soccer Manager Worlds, a ten-year-old franchise developed by the aptly named SoccerManager.com.
Created by the Gore brothers, Andy, Steven and Chris, Soccer Manager is a free-to-play browser-based game. The website – which now acts as a portal to both multiplayer title Soccer Manager Worlds and the single player Soccer Manager 2015 – is visited by 600,000 people each month, and has had over 10m players since its launch in 2005.
Andy would speak to me and Chris about making a football management game. Our plan was to take the best elements from different games and make something we'd want to play,” says operations director Steven Gore.
That was back in 2005. What launched was what is now Soccer Manager Worlds, and that just grew virally to start with, through friends and word of mouth. We have a few hundred thousand monthly active users on that game, and over 10m playing it over time.”
And more recently, the firm decided to give solo players something to enjoy.
About two years ago we decided to try and make a single player version. That came about because we could do more stuff, make a testing environment for the single player. We launched that in beta last October or November. We have two titles and SoccerManager.com is a portal to two different football management games.”
"For a small studio, tax breaks are invaluable.
They let you emply more staff to help
your get your game out there."
Steven Gore, SoccerManager
SoccerManager's games are primarily browser titles, but the firm has moved into mobile apps, with players being able to continue gaming on the go. Gore claims this is a huge selling point for the titles.
Our main selling point is that we develop in HTML5 using a Chrome browser,” he says. We have a great relationship with Google. Previously browsers weren't good enough to make games feel playable.
You can play the game anywhere and everywhere. If you register on our site and save the game, it's stored in the cloud. So if you then are on a bus or train, you can load it up on our app and play where you left off. That's something that a lot of our competitors aren't doing.”
For the majority of its ten-year existence, SoccerManager.com has been commercially independent, funded by ad revenue. But last year the company turned to investment firm Mercia Fund Management who put 300,000 behind the developer.
To take the game where we wanted we got some investment from Mercia. We looked into partnering up with a publisher or something along those lines, but when we started speaking to Mercia and – with the background [investment director and former Sega CEO] Mike Hayes has – we thought these people could help us grow our product as big as it could be. We've got [former Codemasters boss and Mercia panel member] Nick Wheelwright onboard as our chairman at the moment. And through Mercia we also met people like [freelance marketer, former Sega GM and brand marketing boss] Matt Eyre. His help and work have been invaluable as well. Mercia were the ideal people.”
Soccer Manager 2015 was also one of the first 14 titles to be approved for video game tax breaks by the UK government.
We use a London-based legal firm called Sheridans, and there's an excellent lawyer there called Alex Chapman who has worked in the industry for years,” Gore says.
He advised us about tax breaks and we got approved very quickly. It's an excellent thing that the Government has introduced. For a small studio, having tax breaks are invaluable. They let you employ more staff to help get your product out there.
He concludes: The entire process is seamless. I can recommend it to any other small development studio in the UK.”