MCV has spoken to celebrity video game ambassadors before.
They will tell us that the new game they're endorsing is a 'special one' before feeding us pre-prepared lines on how 'passionate' they are about the project. They may or may not have played a video game before.
So imagine our surprise when Gianluca Vialli – former Chelsea and Italian football star who is helping create a new type of sports game called Lords of Football – spoke to us about the digital market, the role of DLC, the importance of retail, and even potential publishers for his new project.
How come this TV personality and sports icon knows so much about the games industry?
"I read MCV,” he says “I have been for the last four years."
We're in good company.
LORD OF VIDEO GAMES
Lords of Football is created by Italian studio Geniaware. Players take control of a football team, but rather than just deal with on-field antics (like Football Manager) they must also look after the players off the field. Keep an eye on that gambling before it gets out of hand, set those training regimes, and punish those that disobey. It has almost more in common with The Sims than your typical sports game.
"We see Lords of Football as our baby," says Vialli.
"Obviously it is just the beginning, it could be a really successful franchise, with downloadable content.
"I have played FIFA and Football Manager. We felt that we wanted to do something different, something unique. In Lords of Football you are God, ruling what goes on. But it also has got to be fun.”
The concept of a ‘lifestyle sports simulator’ emerged in 2006 World Cup. During the tournament, the media started focusing on players training and started to show more of the players' lives away from the pitch.
“This was a great source of inspiration for us, suddenly opening up what the real world of football is all about. We decided we wanted to show the real side of football, the human side that is such a popular part of football,” says Geniaware general manager Claudio Giacopazzi.
Following a brief stint managing Chelsea and Watford, Vialli left day-to-day football and accepted a role as a sports analyst for Sky Italia. But between that and supervising his own charity, he still found he had time on his hands.
“Four years ago I got a phone call from a friend who works for an investment company,” explains Vialli.
“They wanted to get into the video game industry, and they had found this concept called Lords of Football, and wanted me to get involved.
“They wanted me to use my expertise in helping the development of the game. I said that was fine as long as I have a good time, and that the things that I say actually has an impact.
“My main concern was: "Am I going to have fun doing this?" If I didn't find it enjoyable, I probably wouldn't be still involved.
“And then I got really involved. It has become like an addiction. I started to feel like [Lords of Football] was my baby as well.”
Geniaware’s marketing director Sabrina Gasson adds: “He has been great to work with, more often than not he's available to advise on footballers’ participation in our publicity campaigns
One such marketing initiative has been the golden scarf PR stunt. Geniaware has been awarding top managers – including Man City’s Roberto Mancini and former Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola – with a branded scarf for being the ‘best dressed manager.’
“Our intention is to draw attention to Lords of Football and hopefully get people talking about it,” says Vialli. “
Vialli isn’t just a PR tool, however. He’s playing a role advising the development as well, using his experience as both a former player and manager.
And one such idea that was taken on-board revolved around the use of player names and licences.
“We could have gone down two different avenues,” says Vialli.
“One would have been to go down the long, painful, complicated, expensive process of buying the rights and likenesses. But it wasn't what we were looking for because those rights don't cover what the footballers can do off the pitch.
“Because the twist and spin in our game is off-the-pitch activities, then having the rights would be a waste. We wanted the users to have more fun and have them design their ultimate team, and then feel that all important ownership to their creation! I could put you in my team, or I could create my pub team or my school team. You can customise the name of the players, the logo, the shirts. You are God. You are in charge of the world. And that was a decision that I pushed for, and they listened to me.”
And now that Lords of Football is finished, Vialli believes it has the potential to reach a broader audience than other football games.
“We believe it will be attractive to play for a wide range of age groups.
“I think a lot of managers out there these days – like Mourinho, Guardiola and Mancini –these guys have made managing cool and sexy.”
Lords of Football is set for a digital release, but Geniaware is hoping to see the game in shops, too. And for that they are in need of a publisher.
"We are looking for a publisher, because we know they have the knowledge and the expertise to launch a product,” concludes Vialli.
“It would be nice to find a publisher that shares the same passion for Lords of Football. We don't just want to be one of the games in the publisher's portfolio. Otherwise we are going to go solo.
“I am very excited now because I can see the launching date. Before I was like: "Guys, how long?" And they are like "Nearly there." "But you said nearly there last time." Now I know that the game will be ready very shortly."