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Football Manager Handheld 2012: 'Mobile could take over, but we're still investing in PC'

Sports Interactive discusses first details on launch day

Sports Interactive launched Football Manager Handheld 2012 on Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch today with an improved user interface, more interactive news, and a number of other new features, tweaks and upgrades.

Football Manager is currently one of the PC's most popular franchises, appearing on UK sales charts alongside The Sims and World of Warcraft on a weekly basis, and with the ubiquity of Apple's iOS devices it is poised to achieve similar success in the mobile gaming market.

In the lead up to its release we had a chat with Sports Interactive's studio director, Miles Jacobson. Here's what he had to say...

You're a few iterations into the iOS version now. How have your lessons from the previous instalments shaped this year's release?

The first couple of iterations have been successful beyond our expectations, so the key learning was to do more of the same!

That said, the success has also meant that the shackles have come off a bit so we've been able to do some really interesting stuff this year, including a whole new game mode "Challenge Mode".

In this mode you are presented with 4 different "scenarios" which you can play as pretty much any team that are playable inside the main game mode. As an example, one of the challenges is to take over a team who have an injury crisis and see if you can still win enough matches to stop dropping down the table. But there are positives ones too, like one where you're on an unbeaten run, and the challenge is to keep it going for the rest of the season.

It's a whole new way to play the game, with lots of replayability (they're pretty easy to do with Man City & Utd, but not quite as easy with Watford or Torquay) and we're really excited to see how they go down with the people who play the game.

One other thing we've learnt, although this is the long term, is that we don't do enough code sharing in the studio. We have 3 key titles now in Football Manager, FM Handheld & FM Online (our South Korean MMO that will be coming out next year) but each works on a different platform layer.

So we're increasing the squad size of particularly the technology team at the studio to improve our cross platform tech - so if anyone reading this is an experienced tech engineer and wants a new job for Xmas, drop us a line!

What were the big things fans were asking for?

The fans were mainly asking for little things, rather than huge things, and we've tried to accommodate those into the new version - more media interaction, improving the 2d match view, Facebook being added to the social networking options, showing each teams "star players", sorting on the shortlist page, a transfer window rules page, and loads of other tweaks here and there.

What options does the increased horsepower of the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 open up to you?

It's more iOS5 opening up possibilities rather than the new devices - we're still aiming for lower end phones, although do have a retina display mode to make it look better for those phones that have them.

But with iOS5, we've utilised the mirroring mode which means that if you have an iDevice with iOS5 on it, and an Apple TV, you can now play Football Manager Handheld on your TV controlling it via the iPad.

Can you see a time when the majority of FM players sample the game on mobile devices?

There's certainly as big a market out there for mobile users as PC users, and the way things are going they could well be the majority. But that doesn't mean investment on the PC version will go down at all - with the shared technology possibilities, it's going up throughout the studio.

Thankfully the PC/Mac version of the game is doing better than ever this year - especially in the first 10 days before it was cracked, hence we're re-investing this back into our games.

Away from Sports Interactive and Football Manager, we've heard that you've been working on an indie bundle for GamesAid?

That's true - although there are quite a few of us from different parts of the industry working on it, with Graeme Struthers, Andy Payne & Dom Mason leading it, and myself, Iain Livingstone, Cat Channon & Caroline Miller at Indigo Pearl helping out where we can.

It's going to come out on December 14th, it's called "Little Big Bunch" and features 5 PC games from some of the best indies out there - Mode 7, Curve, Mommy's Best, Just Add Water & New Star Games have teamed up to provide a package with Frozen Synapse, Explodemon, Serious Sam Double D, Munch's Oddysee & New Star Soccer 5, with the people buying the bundle being able to allocate their donations to be split between GamesAid and the developers.

There's no minimum or maximum price, but we're obviously hoping to raise as much money for GamesAid as possible.

For those who don't know about GamesAid's work, and the charities they've currently supporting, you can go to www.gamesaid.org. On the day of launch people will be able to go to www.littlebigbunch.com to get the bundle, which will be able until January 2nd.

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