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Sports Interactive signs with Sega

For Eastside Hockey Manager.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Championship Manager developer Sports Interactive has signed its first publishing deal since it parted ways with Eidos earlier this year, partnering with Sega Europe for its new title, ice hockey management sim Eastside Hockey.

The game, which is set to be published in late Q1 2004, is the first non-football game to be created by Sports Interactive, and will be published in all global territories by Sega's various international divisions.

"Sega is a global publisher who have a huge amount of experience in the business, and they were our first choice," Sports Interactive managing director Miles Jacobson told

Although Championship Manager is hugely popular in the UK and in most other European territories, the game has not received much exposure in other areas, so Eastside Hockey will be a major first for Sports Interactive in terms of a global launch.

"If you look at where ice hockey is a popular sport, North America and particularly Canada are very important markets obviously," explained Jacobson. "Sega are global. They're obviously trying to start afresh in Europe at the moment, they've gone a bit down the line and they want to go much further. We have a good name in Europe and we can help them to cement their image here - but yes, their strength in the USA and Japan is important as well."

"We've been signed by Sega Europe, so most of our dealings are with them, but there are a lot of people in the USA and Japan who are already involved. For example, we're planning to have six different countries and 29 leagues in the game, so there's a lot of work to be done in securing the rights to all of that, and Sega's global offices are helping to work on that."

Regarding the challenges of launching into the North American marketplace, Jacobson admitted that it's a market which "needs to be educated" about sports management games. "There have been a few sports management games released there over the years, but none of them have really been similar to the sort of games we're working on and the kind of depth you find in our games just hasn't been done there before."

"We see this as a long-term deal for Eastside," he commented, but he's adamant that the first release will be a success regardless. "We're very confident that the first release of Eastside will be of similar quality to the eighth or ninth release of Championship Manager, and we're looking forward to helping the game of ice hockey grow in the UK... I know that sounds like a large statement, but I really do think we can help to grow the sport."

Of course, the news which tens of thousands of fans are waiting for is finding out what Sports Interactive will be doing in terms of football management simulations in future - with the Championship Manager brand still owned by Eidos, the company must now develop a new brand for the products which have become some of the most successful games ever sold in the UK.

"We'll be announcing our next football game in February of next year," revealed Jacobson. "The hockey game is almost ready to launch, so we obviously wanted to get that signed up. To be honest, the choice of publisher for the football game is already made, largely speaking, but our focus is on other things at the moment - not to mention that the football team simply needs a break right now!"

Although Jacobson refused to be drawn on any further details of the next football title, it seems entirely likely that Sports Interactive will continue its partnership with Sega for that game - and that being involved with Sega for that title will offer massive new opportunities for Sports Interactive.

"I've just returned from Japan, where I had a lot of meetings with Sega," Jacobson said. "You find yourself sitting in a room with these genuine industry legends, and they're just as happy to see you as you are to see them. That's very flattering - it's a real honour to be involved with Sega. Championship Manager may not have done well in the USA and Japan but people there are certainly aware of what we've done and they're very interested."

"For the time being," he concluded, "we just want to get Eastside right and hope that we can have a good working relationship with Sega. Certainly in the first few weeks they have been fantastic - I hope that the honeymoon never ends."

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