The History of Football Management Games Part 1

The History of Football Management Games Part 1
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History of Football Manager

From the original 1982 ZX Spectrum game Football Manager, to the modern day equivalent of the same name and other competitors like Championship Manager or LMA Manager, football management games have come full circle. In this article we will be looking into some of the more facetious football management games to grace the gaming world.

Although I would argue that we would still have football management games today even if it didn’t happen, Football Manager was the vaunted beginning of this journey into the ways of the manager. With the defaulted rags to riches story being the premise, 7 difficulty settings and a selection of any team currently in the first 4 divisions of English football at the time, Football Manager let you charge through the leagues until you secured the ultimate desire of any English manager by winning the FA Cup.

Football Manager Luminaries

Being the first serious effort in football management games history, its quite a surprise to find out about some of its features. Not only did the game allow for a division dependent bank loaning system, but it also had a transfer system and morale implications based off the results of your team, this culminated in a managerial rating based off your predilections as a manager also.

The Boss became the first competitor to the crown of football management simulation two years after Football Manager in 1984. With a similar gamplay palette The Boss was well received while still taking a back seat to the premier management game. New additions to the football management pantheon came from the European cup competitions for domestic cup and league winners.

Also the game included a decade specific rioting aspect and the ability to spy on future opposition; something which would be precluded from modern era games. Another game of this era is Football Director, made in 1986, which brought the ability to hire staff and cultivate a youth team into the genre among other things that still hold water in todays games (training notification, substitutions during matches et al).

Sequel to Football Manager

Football Manager Sequel

Players had to wait 6 years for the true sequel to Football Manager, with the second iteration sparking renewed interest in the genre, while providing a worthy descendant of the original game. Football Manager 2 allowed the player more freedom than ever before, with the ability to choose formation, use substitutes and even change features like man marking or short range passing.

Although the by now standard of rising through the four tiers of English football was utilised once again, the addition of the league cup meant the player had the ability to complete a historic treble cup winning season in the game, which was unprecedented at the time.

Continue onto page 2 for some decidedly pleasant football management games that came about in the early 1990’s…

Player Manager: A New Hybrid

With a whole slew of football management games now on the market it fell on ANCO software to produce one of the most well regarded series and most innovative to date in the history of football management games. In 1990 Player Manager was released, combining actual playing of the game with the management features created a hybrid that is still used today in games like Pro Evolution Soccer or re-makes of Sensible Soccer.

Having one of the largest databases of players, a hugely invested tactics system, the now bog standard transfer and staff features, ability to view training and managing the 8 individual stat parameters each player were given, Player Manager had many things going for it.

Also of note is the introduction of player attributes decreasing over time as they age and the ability to retire said player, a stalwart of many a decent football game thereafter. There were many sequels to Player Manager, in particular the Playstation version from 1995 is one of my personal favourites, maybe I’ll get round to doing a retrospective on it.

Championship Manager: The Elephant in The Living Room

Player Manager

The flagship series Championship Manager decided to enter the fray in 1992 with a often criticised yet cult classic management game. The first steps of the Championship Manager series were rough, with only the 4 English divisions, a lack of real names and some limited graphics for the time.

However the innovative and original use of match ratings, overall average ratings and player histories that can be tracked over the course of your tenure was a remarkable game mechanic that is still lauded even now. To further this, the resultant yearly sequels built on the shortcomings of their predecessors to create the most well-respected series in the history of football games.

Player Manager 2

They added real player names, addition of foreign leagues (starting with Scotland in CM2 and extending to almost every major league and now minor leagues in the world), managing national teams, database editing tool kits, selection of set piece takes, formatted Champions League, working Bosman ruling and fully simulated national games. All in all, Championship Manager defined how we play football management games today and how being a manager, as an experience, should play out.

The History of Football Management Games…

Some spurious happenings changed the landscape forever, with a cataclysm splitting the CM series in half. From there things get interesting in the world of football management, so stay tuned for part 2, where I’ll discuss not only some other appreciable titles but discuss the two leading franchises in the new century that came from the Eidos/Sports Interactive debacle.

Anyone remember LMA Manager or Ultimate Soccer Manager, because they will likely be making an appearance in part 2 of this history of football management games series. Stay tuned for more…

This post is part of the series: History of Football Manager

A look back at the history of Football Manager and other football management games.

  1. The History of Football Management Games Part 1
  2. The History of Football Management Games Part 2