Sports Interactive PR Manager Tom Davidson has to be one of the coolest people we’ve ever worked, a brilliant man that is living the Football Manager dream. Every boy has wanted to design a video game at some point in their life and everybody wants to be part of some big. Davidson has an amazing job that does both.
Davidson is one of the many faces behind the epic Football Manager series, a game that has gained a worldwide cult following. The series is one of the oldest and most recognized brands in the entire industry, outliving the competition by remaining relevant year after year for 25+ years. It’s a great story and one that Davidson should get plenty of credit for.
Davidson shares some incredible insights into a game that has become much more than a game, inspiring multiple books and documentaries as well as worldwide media coverage. Playing Football Manager is a lifestyle and the game has made all of us appreciate football that much more. Managing a football club is no easy task in real life, but it sure is a fun one in FM 18.
1. In your opinion, what do you think the biggest improvement is from FM17 to FM18?
I really like the addition of Dynamics this year. It makes you take more factors into consideration when handling your squad and signing new players, just like a real manager does. If you can keep a positive atmosphere in the dressing room, then it can really help you exceed your club’s expectations in the game.
2. How many people were involved in this year’s edition of FM? What countries did they come from?
We have just over 100 people employed by the studio although many of those work off-site across Europe and some are in America and Australia too. In addition to that, we have a group of external testers that are involved in helping us to iron out bugs ahead of the game’s release to the public.
3. How much time do the full-time staff of Sports Interactive spend actually playing FM? How does that compare to other preparations for the game? What are your busiest months for getting the game ready?
The amount of time we spend playing FM varies across the studio. Some of the staff don’t play it that often because of time constraints whereas, if you work in the QA team here, it’s your job to play it all day and to find and report bugs that the development team can fix. Personally, I play FM virtually all year round and will generally switch over from the previous year’s version to the latest version around August/September time, mostly to familiarize myself with the new features.
Our busiest months are between August and November, or what we like to call “crunch time.” This is where we start bolting together the work that the various gameplay teams have produced for the latest game and when we start fixing the bugs that are caused by that process.
4. What has the growth been like for non-PC/Mac versions of FM? When was it decided to have these different versions available?
We want to offer a Football Manager experience to suit different lifestyles. Not everyone wants to play the full desktop experience of Football Manager so we decided that we wanted to offer a more mobile experience to suit those needs that still gives you the same Football Manager thrill but in a more streamlined way.
5. Do you have any idea how many people (and the # of countries they come from) play FM each year?
FM is a game that is popular right across the world. We know that people play it on every continent except Antarctica – although hopefully we’ll see some sales there soon! We even have sales in Vatican City which is a pretty bizarre one.
6. Are you ever surprised by FM’s worldwide following and how far the game has come?
We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped Football Manager become the success that it is today. It still amazes us as a studio that a game that we started making for ourselves as soccer fans has impacted so many people’s lives across the world.
7. What’s your favorite part of working at SI? on the FM team?
Without doubt it’s the fact that I get to work on the game that I have played and loved since I was 6 years old. What makes that even better is that I’m fortunate enough to work with some of the best people in the industry that are all hugely passionate about FM and football which makes SI a fantastic place to work.
8. Is there any staff member that is particularly good at the game? Are there any clubs that are followed by a large number of your staff?
Everyone seems to be pretty evenly matched, even though we all have our own distinct management styles. Every year we have a challenge that gets organized in the office where we’ll all start a save game as a club and see who does the best. Hopefully we’ll get one of those started over the coming weeks.
As we’re based in London, teams like Arsenal and Tottenham are widely supported in the office. As a result of our partnership with Watford we also have a number of people, myself included, who go along to a few of their games during the season. It’s good to see them doing well at this stage of the season.
What are your key responsibilities as PR Manager? What does your typical day look like?
As PR Manager it’s my job to create and maintain relationships with the media and to organize the placement of Football Manager content, particularly around the game’s release. I’ll also send copies out for the press to review, provide them with in-game imagery and organize interviews with SI staff. I’m also involved in the creation of our in-house content for such things as the various feature videos that showcase different elements of the game. When I first started at SI, I was responsible for writing articles about Football Manager that could be used by the media and that still forms part of my role now.
What goals do you have for FM in the North American market?
As with any market, we’re keen for as many people to enjoy the experiences that Football Manager offers. Soccer in the U.S. is in an exciting place at the moment with new teams joining the MLS as well as record attendances in the league. Our hope is that Football Manager can benefit from this wave of enthusiasm for the sport.