Football Manager - whether by its current name or the one it used go by, Championship Manager - has long been considered the benchmark for the football management sub-genre. However it's never strayed too far from its PC roots - at least, its headlining editions never have. But that could be about to change with the release next spring of the Xbox 360 version of Football Manager 2006. It's fully-featured, and London-based developer Sports Interactive thinks it's going to do very well - and have very nice things to say in general about Microsoft's new console format. Hot on the heels of yesterday evening's announcement, we caught up with SI MD Miles Jacobson to ask him about it.
Eurogamer: We could try and second-guess you a bit, but it makes more sense to just ask outright: Why Xbox 360?
Miles Jacobson: We've been waiting for a while for a console that can handle the massive processing power that Football Manager requires, and the Xbox 360 is that console. To give people the chance to experience FM in their living room is something that we're very excited about.
Eurogamer: We understand your original intention was to produce an Xbox 360 launch title - a kind of hybrid of FMs 2005 and 2006. Why did that change, and when was the decision made?
Miles Jacobson: It changed because we want to be able to give people the full experience. It was actually Sega's idea about a month ago when we decided on a release time for the PSP game, to have both our "console" versions coming out at the same time, and actually said "no" at first as the Xbox 360 version was so far down the line. Then went back to SI and we spoke to the Xbox 360 dev team about what extra they could add to the game if they had more time, they told us that it would lead to the full FM2006 experience, with some other bits and bobs aswell, and it became a complete no-brainer of a decision.
Eurogamer: You've said this is a feature-complete Football Manager 2006 - is there anything in the PC game that isn't on Xbox 360? And does the PC version lack any X360 features?
Miles Jacobson: The networked multi-player options will be different on each. We are sticking to the same system for the PC/Mac hybrid version that we've had for a while, whereas Xbox 360 will have something different instead, but we're not revealing exactly what just yet. It's very cool though, and much more appropriate for the console gamer compared to our normal system. Obviously they've both got different control methods, but everything will be in there, although you might need a HD TV to be able to see a couple of things where the screen resolution of a normal TV just can't display everything.
Eurogamer: How will the control system work?
Miles Jacobson: With a joypad! Patience, my friend, patience...
Eurogamer: Microsoft has been very vocal in its support for high-definition TVs. What resolutions will you be supporting, and how have you dealt with it in general?
Miles Jacobson: It's been great for us. The hard part was to get it working on normal TV's, not H-D's. It just means larger screen areas for us, similar to the differences between playing on the PC in different resolutions - at certain resolutions in Football Manager you see extra information on some screens, as there is more room to display it.
Eurogamer: What's the console like to develop for? How are you finding the multiple threads, for example?
Miles Jacobson: Certain areas of FM are already threaded, but it has certainly pushed us further into other areas of the code. It's going to be useful for the PC game in the long term too. But the dev team tell me that the console has been very easy to get to grips with, and the initial progress was much faster than we were expecting, so we're very happy with it.
Eurogamer: How if at all will you be taking advantage of Xbox 360 Live?
Miles Jacobson: I'm not ready to talk about that yet. I'd rather that wait until I'm playing on Xbox 360 Live against you, and will fill you in properly then...
Eurogamer: With so image-based avatars, any chance you'll use real people for regenerated players someday?
Miles Jacobson: Well, we are already doing that, and those that apply for Face In The Game and get through will be in Football Manager 2006, and that means the Xbox 360 version too.
Eurogamer: Do you think you'll ever release premium, i.e. paid-for Live content? Obviously there's no need to if you're launching with the transfer window updates, but the question's bound to arise sooner or later.
Miles Jacobson: I really like the Xbox 360's capabilities in that area, and there are all kinds of possibilities that we're investigating.
Eurogamer: Given that PlayStation 3 also has a hard disk (although there seems to be some confusion over how much games will use it), and your support for the Sony PSP, what do you think the chances are of a PS3 version of FM, if not for this version then maybe next season?
Miles Jacobson: We know the same about PS3 as you guys. When someone wants to tell us more, then we'll be able to make decisions about it, and that's the same for any other platform holder. The team at Xbox started talking to us pretty early on and it's an honour that they want us to make games for their system, much in the same as we feel about Sony and the PSP.
Eurogamer: Finally, how do you see Watford doing this year?
Miles Jacobson: If we stay up, I'll be happy. Like last season. But very different, due to all the changes at the club.
Football Manager 2006 is due out on PC/Mac on November 4th, with PSP and Xbox 360 versions due in spring 2006.