A spiritual successor to the popular 90s Championship Manager series, Football Manager was a hit that broke records as one of the five fastest-selling PC games ever when it was released in November 2004.
Since then, the series putting players in charge of running a football club has continued to grow, with last year’s game played by six million people.
But it has changed dramatically since the 2000s. Little circles bouncing about on a green rectangle have become a fully-fledged 3D simulation, which gamers often boast (or bemoan) getting lost in for hundreds of hours each year.
With the release of the 20th game in the Football Manager series on Monday, the BBC spoke to Sports Interactive, the British studio behind the game, about the fan favourite and how it has evolved.
“The way that I see it, I’m actually making the game for me – it just so happens that there are a few million other people like me out there,” said studio head Miles Jacobson.
“Games aren’t cheap for people to buy, so we’re determined to make the best value for money game every year, so people are getting a lot of play time out of their £40-50 that they’ve worked so hard to try and get.”
One example of this comes in a new feature that lets players pick up where they left off in last year’s game.
For the first time in the series’ history, players can continue their last previously-saved game. This means their progress in Football Manager 2023 carries over directly into Football Manager 2024.
According to Sports Interactive, the feature has been used by 25% of players who have pre-ordered the game so far.
“It’s definitely our most requested feature from the community, and it’s the most pre-ordered game we’ve ever had,” he said.
“This is going to be the last game in the Football Manager series as you know it… we wanted this to be a celebration of the end of an era.”