Managing Football Manager

What’s the biggest difference between marketing an MMO and a more traditional video game?

With the traditional MMO market, where you see the likes of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings and Warhammer, a lot of those users are aware of what an MMO is. What we have with Football Manager Live is an MMO that is being sold to an audience that does not know about MMOs. So we are making sure people understand about the social element and that it is very similar to Fantasy Football. Even though FM Live is very much an MMO, we are promoting it far more in line with Fantasy Football.

Sports Interactive has adopted this ‘constant development’ cycle. So with this in mind, will Sega be constantly promoting it?

Constantly promoting it no. Because we want to step into the shadows when the big brother, Football Manager, comes out. FM is the big, traditional, successful product for SI and Sega, so there will be times when Football Manager Live will not be so much in the limelight. However, we do have plans that go right on into the future.

So will you be targeting specific times, such as a World Cup, to promote FM Live?

Absolutely. What we need to look at is when football fans are around, but also when football fans are bored. Football isn’t that cyclical, yes we have big events such as the World Cup and European championships, but people don’t stop loving football because it is not in season. So we will be promoting FM Live during both the ups and downs of football interest.

Are you concerned that FM Live is coming out so close to Football Manager 2009?

Football Manager has only recently come out and a lot of people are still playing it. We do know we have a job to do from an educational and sales sense in getting people signed up to the game. Football Manager Live though is much more of a slow burner for Sega. We don’t expect to go out there and set off fireworks with incredibly massive day one numbers. Instead, we’re looking at a long-term strategy in trying to get subscribers in. What we’ve seen is that people who play the game fall in love with it, and so we need to make sure we can create an environment that entices new gamers in.

You’ve just launched the retail version shortly after the digital edition. What’s more important to FM Live, the digital or the retail sector?

In order to reach the audience, retail is without question the best way to do that. And we’ve been talking to retailers about various promotions, and how to communicate the game to their consumers for a while now. We hope that retail will keep Football Manager Live on their shelves for years and years, we know that shelves get renewed, but we hope we can stay there for as long as we can.

Considering how popular fantasy football is over here, could FM Live, in the long term, become the UK’s biggest MMO?

We would love to think so. Fantasy Football has been around for many years, going right back to play by mail days. So we don’t think we’re going to kick arse from day one. We’re going to be there, and we need to educate users and get people to play the game, and hopefully it’ll all snowball from there.

Considering your retail background, what are your hopes and concerns for the sector in 2009?

It has been a great shame to see the loss of stores like Zavvi and Woolworths. In the past I worked for Virgin retail, and I knew many of the buyers there. So obviously it’s a great concern from a personal front, and not just a business front. We need a strong and healthy retail sector, and the first three quarters of the year will give us a good indication on how we’re going to do.

For a full feature with Sports Interactive’s Miles Jacobson, head on over to Develop.

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