It is, perhaps, a trifle ironic that when it comes to Football Manager, a game which elevates opinion to an art form, there is so little difference of opinion.
Instead it is quite uniformly accepted as the gold standard within a genre, which it defines with its content as clearly as it does with its name.
Sports Interactive’s studio director Miles Jacobson tells MCV: “The Football Manager series sells around 900,000 copies per year, 45 per cent of which are accounted for within the UK.
“It’s the third most successful PC brand in Europe behind World of Warcraft and The Sims.”
With every year, each new iteration is eagerly anticipated by a growing army of fans, keen to see what has been added to the winning mix. This year they have plenty to get their teeth into.
Football Manager 2011 boasts a wealth of new features, including improved and more detailed contract negotiations, including different types of agents to deal with.
Dynamic league reputation means that as teams get stronger, the league they play in attracts better players and becomes increasingly competitive.
There’s a revamped training system that allows managers to coach players in 14 different skill areas and focus as a team on specific tactics.
New levels of interaction between manager and players and manager and board provides a more accurate model of real life, while match views have been updated with over 100 animations, including players, models, stadiums and goal celebrations.
Then there’s a news subscription service expanded to deliver information in a more friendly and immersive manner, alongside Set Piece Creator – which does pretty much what it says on the tin – but in an intuitive and user-friendly way.
Football Manager 2011 also gets a new interface and a whole host of new questions for press conferences. Players even have the ability to publish achievements and goals to social networking sites YouTube and Twitter.
As ever, the improvements and additions have come about through a combination of the creativity within the Sports Interactive team and the suggestions and comments from Football Manager’s dedicated and vocal fan community.
TOP OF THE LEAGUE
No developer is as connected to its players as Sports Interactive, and no franchise is influenced so directly by its fans as Football Manager.
Jacobson adds: “Our goal each year is to make the best football management games ever released – and our focus is on quality.
“With quality, sales will come, and we’ve got a pretty good record in that area. Football Manager is one of the best value for money propositions out there – the average amount of time spent playing the game in a year is well over 100 hours.”
Hundreds of thousands of Football Manager fans are already primed for this year’s iteration, passing the time until release date by watching the Premier and Football League managers do their best, tutting at the odd selection, raising their eyebrows at suspect formations, and itching to get going on what they consider to be ‘the real thing’.
DLC-wise there’ll be a free data update early next year, but all the content users need – with more than 50 playable leagues – is available out of the box from day one.