Association Football Management Games have a long history – the first Football Manager game was released all the way back in 1982 for the ZX Spectrum personal computer. This machine was a smash hit over in Europe and especially in its home turf of the United Kingdom, but never really made much of an impression on the US market.
The US home computer market was dominated by three contenders in the early days – Commodore’s machines, the Vic20 and Commodore 64, the Tandy-branded TRS-80, and Atari’s Apple II. Football Manager saw a conversion to the C64 in 1984, but, predictably, failed to make much of a splash on the other side of the Atlantic where the NFL and Gridiron football is infinitely more popular than Soccer.
Fast Forward: Football Manager 2009
Indeed, the US struggled to get to grips with soccer management sims even as recently as 2008, when IGN published a hugely controversial 2/10 review for Football Manager’s latest incarnation which had been renamed Worldwide Soccer Manager 2009 for the US market. The scathing review blasted the game for its lack of gameplay, and unreasonably compared it to action-orientated sports titles such as FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer.
In short, IGN USA had completely missed the point of the game which had scored 9.1/10 on the UK-orientated version of their site. They complained “There is no traditional gameplay to speak of. I can’t imagine why anybody would prefer [Worldwide Soccer Manager] over FIFA 09 or Pro Evolution Soccer 2009”.
The gaming community was outraged leading IGN to pull the review from its site and replace it with an apology instead. Looking back, the reviewer was probably treated a little harshly – American Football management games aren’t really a thing, and he was clearly given a title to review that just didn’t fit with his interests or experience.
The Present Day
Today, some American’s have woken up to the potential of the genre. Not only is managing your favorite team a lot of fun, even without actually playing soccer, but modern examples of the genre such as the latest Football Manager games offer a very realistic simulation of the state of each years Soccer leagues from around the world, making them a great way for those who are interested in betting on sports to gauge how particular teams might perform over the coming year.
Coming Soon: Football Manager 2022
The FIFA and Pro Evo soccer games are often criticized for their lack of new features in each year’s new release. It’s a difficult situation for the developers, however, as when they do make significant changes to the way these games work, they often don’t go down well with the most dedicated fans of the franchise.
Football Manager updates their leagues, teams, player stats, everything you would expect, but tends to do a lot more with the rest of the game each year as well. The developers are constantly trying new things, seeing what works, and keeping the things players enjoy whilst rolling back things that didn’t work out so well.
The forthcoming 2022 release of Football Manager (still known as Worldwide Soccer Manager in the US) is being made available for more platforms than ever before, and publisher Sega has surprised many corners of the industry by planning support for legacy platforms such as the Xbox 360 and smaller computer markets such as the Mac and Linux, too.
New Features: The Highlights
One of the biggest new features for 2022 is the Data Hub. This complicated feature has an entire article dedicated to it on the developer’s website, explaining how integral to the game data analysis has become and promising to bring some of that intricate analysis and depth to the Football Manager franchise.
The Data Hub offers numerous brand-new metrics which can be used to evaluate team and player performance, even diving deep into things like defensive pairings, player statistics based on formation, and many, many more. This won’t be for the faint of heart but is likely to delight dedicated fans of the genre.
The developer Sports Interactive promise each year to get ever closer to reproducing the experience of sitting in a stadium and enjoying a real football match. The new consoles being developed for this year such as the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 offer a huge amount of extra horsepower over previous generations, which will no doubt have helped them hugely in this regard.
There’s no doubt that the graphics are impressive, but it is difficult to evaluate whether the simulation is any more realistic than previous years without spending at least a few hours watching matches between teams that you are somewhat familiar with. I’m sure YouTube will have plenty of videos popping up any day now for those who are interested in taking a look.