PC Gamer: Football Manager is a series that has had a far bigger cultural impact than it has on gaming specifically. There's the film, books, comedy routines and so on, and it never seems to be that popular with gaming journalists, apart from a select few. Why do you think that is?
Miles Jacobson: Because we don't make games for gamers; we make games for football fans. We don't see ourselves as a computer game any more, we see ourselves as a football company, hence the deal with ProZone, hence a documentary that would have been a hell of a lot easier if we'd just done a making-of documentary rather than making a documentary about the cultural influence of the game in football. But how boring would that be? We overtook Frozen last night, at about 2am, on iTunes. It was a very proud moment for me, but I don't think a making-of documentary would have quite done that. We've always seen ourselves as more football than games, and it's something that we accepted a long time ago.
We make a niche game, it just happens to be a very large niche, so we're very lucky. It's never been a problem for us. I've described it as being like the BoyZone of the games industry, and the games press are all NME rather than Smash Hits. I think we've been doing it for so long now we're probably the Status Quo of the games industry instead. But we actually realised it before the games press did. We don't do a lot of advertising in the games press, and the reason we don't do that is because it's a waste of money doing it with the games press rather than with football websites. But there are lots of journalists that enjoy it. There aren't many that would admit to enjoying it.
PC Gamer: I often say it's the best RPG I've ever played.
Miles Jacobson: Thank you. It is an RPG. It's open world. It just happens to be a football management simulation as well. So I agree with that. I had an interesting conversation with Peter Molyneux about that on a plane going to E3 one year, when he said 'why don't you make an RPG?' and it's like 'Peter, it is an RPG', he says 'oh yeah... I guess it is!' But we don't need to convince anyone of anything, I don't feel the need to. We know that we're not going to win many games awards, because there are other games that are more game-y that also deserve them. But we're very happy that we still get to do this for a living, and the people that we have to impress each year are the people who play the game. Our review scores aren't actually bad at all—I think we average 85%, which is great—but we won't get the credit that the technical team here deserve for what they manage to do. But we're fine with that, it's not a problem, because we get to go make films and people watch them!
PC Gamer: So what's the longest you've ever played for, number of seasons-wise?
Miles Jacobson: I'm well over 40 seasons. I tend to stop when I've won the maximum amount of trophies four seasons on the trot, which some seasons is six, some is seven. When I do that four times it's a new game. But yeah, my play-time is ridiculous—but I direct it, so I've got an excuse.
PC Gamer: Football Manager Classic has had a couple of years to bed in now. What are the metrics showing? Has it managed to bring back lapsed players?
Miles Jacobson: It's around 10% of players using it, and yes we've definitely brought some of the old guard back. That was the point of it: to bring back the old guard, to give people an introduction, it's growing steadily every year. It's great that I get to work with Ov Collyer again on something directly because he's the director of FMC. We have some great debates together. It's a fun little mode. if I was directing it, there'd be too much stuff in there, I'd have added too much stuff in there. So having Ov in there as someone who is a lighter player of the game now he's got a couple of kids, having him turning around and saying 'no, we're not adding that' and me going 'alright, it's your game! Do what you want!' is great. He's got a great vision for it, so we will see that coming to fruition over the coming years.
PC Gamer: I'm half expecting regression to the world of holding the spacebar to speed up matches and winning 12-7 with a 1-4-5 formation now.
Miles Jacobson: Hopefully we've got rid of those tactics now.
PC Gamer: What was the most surprising thing you learned from making the documentary?
Miles Jacobson: That Jon McClure plays the game with 't'laptop on't'belly', that was a pretty good revelation. That Demetri Albertini—I knew that he'd been involved with helping out and research, but I didn't ever realise how seriously he took it when he was doing it, so that was great. Finding out a bunch of people who played the game that we weren't aware of was good. Finding out that it's possible to make a film in five months on a tiny budget that can be shown in 47 countries simultaneously while in the cinema in the UK, finding out about OFCOM rules and how we got banned from being on TV in the UK before the release, finding out that loads of people in the TV and film industry say yes to you a lot when they actually mean no—that was quite frustrating—and finding out that when they do eventually mean no you just basically ignore them and go ahead anyway. From that perspective the process was a great learning experience, and the people we worked with at FilmNova—it was their first feature film as well—they did such a brilliant job that hopefully we'e opened a lot more doors to people doing this now, because the viewing figures were pretty damn good. We were number nine in box office in the UK on the day that we released, most of the TV companies have asked for repeat rights, to which I'm saying 'yeah, but only during the Christmas schedule!' It's just fun writing your own rules for something like that. It was a fun experience.
PC Gamer: What was the OFCOM issue?
Miles Jacobson: It was because we were paying for the documentary to be made. They didn't believe that it could be editorially sound. Even though it was.
PC Gamer: Finally, most importantly of all: what the hell was going on with this picture?
Miles Jacobson: I was young. I was dumb. I was working in the music industry. Rage Against the Machine had just taken off. I have really curly, thick hair when it grows, and someone basically said I'd look amazing in dreads. And I believed them. So I grew my hair out for about nine months, had to wear a hat for about nine months - I looked like one of the Levellers - then had my hair done like that, then didn't wash it for a year. Then looked in the mirror one day and chopped them all off. The thing I was pleased about in that photo was how thin I was - my face was about half the size that it is now. But yeah, the old Stig of the Dump dreads... umm... yeah.
PC Gamer: You should have that hair in the game for regens.
Miles Jacobson: Feel free to steal that photo from Instagram to put it in there. Our regens do have dreads, but I don't think we've got any people with the same skintone as me with dreads in there. But yeah, you've got to embarrass yourself every once in a while.