Football Manager is a unique game that I’ve played for decades. Whether you like it or not, there is nothing out there quite like it. Sure, there are other sports management sim games. But none of them really come close to replicating what Sports Interactive have created. Football Manager is a phenomenon with a bit of a cult following – albeit a large one. There will be thousands upon thousands of gamers who hate it or have never played it, or even heard of it. Yet Football Manager has probably had one of the biggest impacts on the real world of any video game.
As of right now, there are currently 3 different Football Manager games in Steam’s top 100 games, with the latest – 2021 sitting just outside the top 10. To have three years of the same game being played just goes to show how popular the franchise is. Ok, that may not be the most astonishing thing you’ve seen or heard especially as the peaks only total around 100k for all three games. However, the franchise has sold well over 20 million copies which gives you an idea of the game’s popularity.
Our game our stories
Being a long time fan of the series, I’ve become engrossed in many conversations about our own journeys throughout our FM careers. One of my personal favourites was taking Portsmouth – my place of birth, all the way to winning the Champions League – European football’s most prestigious trophy. This was probably back in 2007 maybe even before. Anyway, it was an achievement that took me many seasons and I was very proud of it.
Every year those stories start again for many players. Their journeyman careers starting at the very bottom rung of the ladder and building an unknown club from nothing to greatness. Or dominating the top leagues with the most elite clubs. Everyone creates their own legacy that is totally unique yet so easy to share and talk about.
But what really gets people going is the hunt for talent. Sure, we all know about how good Erling Haaland is. Yes, we also know who some of the best players are going to be because they were great in last years game. But there’s always new, emerging talent that no one has heard of. Getting the signature of that 16 year old wonder-kid for 500k is a great feeling. Knowing that with your guidance they can become the worlds best is something no other game can replicate. Then the inevitable happens and PSG come in and swoop them away from you with huge wages you can’t compete with. Whether it be at your club or another, you still get to see them flourish and grow. That 500k player could now be worth 100 million and you discovered them.
Sharing those undiscovered talents is something FM players thrive on. Whole communities band together to scour every corner of the planet for the next Freddy Adu or Cherno Samba.
And the people who don’t play Football Manager have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.
Real world impact
Here’s the thing, during the 20 some years of Football Manager being Football Manager. It has become such a reliable source for data that the data from it is being used by real football clubs and real staff to help them evaluate real players. Developers Sports Interactive even signed a contract with Prozone – who are a leading performance analysis company, a few years back. Football Manager helps real teams identify real emerging talent. The accuracy of the data collected is generally pretty spot on. There are some instances where things don’t quite pan out in the real world, but you can’t simulate everything.
Football Manager does an incredibly good job of predicting who is the next star. This is probably why if you talk to some football fans they will already know everything about that new player your team just signed. Chances are if they’re any good, every FM player has scouted them.
Sports Interactive have a dedicated scouting network working all over the world watching real matches and providing reports back to them to feed into their database. This ensures that Football Manager is one of the most comprehensive and accurate databases.
Getting a job
It doesn’t stop there though. Players of Football Manager have also managed to bag jobs at clubs off the back of playing the game so much. Sure we’re not talking about someone taking the reigns of Real Madrid, but there have been players who’ve bagged managerial roles at local clubs. Another fan landed a role as a data analyst at a club they managed in the game.
Maybe it’s worth me putting my Portsmouth achievement on my CV?
There is one thing that Football Manager does share with other games and it’s the connection. The connection with other like-minded people. Other fans of the genres or the franchises. Those fans sharing their stories and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started games at the lowest possible tier after reading how someone took a 9th division team to the Premiership and are now in the year 2040 with a stadium being named after them.
Football Manager might not look like the flashiest of games. But its depth and accuracy create a player experience so rich and rewarding that it stands on a pedestal all on its own. I’ve played this franchise for over 20 years and I don’t see me stopping any time soon.