13.08.2021 - Video games have never been so popular, and there is little sign of the growth rate slowing down. It is expected that there will be over 3 billion video gamers in the world by 2023. The Asia Pacific region is the fastest-growing area for new gamers, but sales and downloads are increasing across the planet.Video games have never been so popular, and there is little sign of the growth rate slowing down. It is expected that there will be over 3 billion video gamers in the world by 2023. The Asia Pacific region is the fastest-growing area for new gamers, but sales and downloads are increasing across the planet.
Last year saw the video games and online entertainment industry receive a surge of new players and titles. New releases on Steam shot up by more than 2,000 games in the previous year, and downloads also surged. Part of the reason for this was, of course, the pandemic, and the enforced lockdowns that occurred.
Regardless of all the causes, video and computer game popularity is at an all-time high. And, despite what many might think, it isn’t just battle royale style games that are attracting players. Millions of people spend their time playing management-type games, and particularly, sports-themed ones.
Where did sports management games start?
There may be some debate about where the first sports management game came from, but there is one person who is regarded as something of the Godfather when it comes to football manager games.
Kevin Toms from England designed a football-based management game when he was just a child. This early prototype was a board game and may have remained hidden from the world were it not for the advent of home computers.
After getting hold of a Video Genie, Kevin Toms took to converting his childhood invention into a text-based computer game. This saw the light of day in 1982 on the ZX80 and ZX81. By watching a video review of the original version on the ZX81, you can see just how basic the game was then.
The ZX81 had just 1K of RAM and had a monochrome display. Despite its limitations, it led to a color version for the newly released ZX Spectrum, and then the game, named Kevin Toms’ Football Manager, went on to sell anywhere between 500,000 to 1 million copies across a range of platforms.
Management games after Football Manager
This original sports management game led to a whole genre, and a lot of imitators. Although there were some sequels and a World Cup edition, inevitably, Football Manager was superseded by a rival eventually.
However, it wasn’t just English soccer management games that were being produced in the eighties and nineties. Management games started to spread out into different sports and into some other unlikely areas.
Some developers turned their minds towards making management games on a larger scale. These new titles moved away from sports and towards civilization. Populous was one of the first and biggest of these types of games and involved the player acting as a God and trying to wipe out a rival’s following. The game was released in 1989 and went on to sell 4 million copies.
Other areas of management were explored in Casino Inc: The Management, and Vegas: Make it Big. Theme Park Manager and Theme Hospital let the player delve into running two very different entities. The Sims combined two different genres to introduce God-style games with management and even developed a live casino for the player to run.
Sports management games now
Sports games, in general, are leaps and bounds ahead of when Track and Field was destroying joysticks back in the 1980s. Many sports video game fans are eagerly awaiting the imminent release of eSports Boxing Club. This promises to be the most in-depth and detailed boxing game ever released.
Being touted as the biggest boxing game ever to be developed, it includes 100 real-life licensed boxers, and professionals from the sport have been consulted all through the development process.
Not to be ignored though, management games have also leaped forwards and now players can enjoy online American Football manager games as well as offline PC or console versions. Perhaps the biggest sports management game, as far as Europe is concerned, is Football Manager 2021.
While soccer is still nowhere near the most popular sport in the states, Football Manager has sold well, and in less than two months, more than 1 million copies were shifted worldwide.
How good are the best sports management games in 2021?
Football Manager 2021 owes a huge debt to Kevin Toms and even uses the name, although perhaps that is inevitable. The latest release in the series has some flaws but is still the most complete football management game made.
It asks players to take much more into account than any football, or soccer, management game has before. When you bid for a player you have to approach their agent and ask about availability. When you appoint a Director of Football you need to consider not only their track record but if they can speak the same language that your players do.
You can play computer simulated Fantasy Baseball League games online for fun, but when it comes to management, Out of the Park is the best. The series has been running for decades but has an excellent blend of action and fun. Line-ups need to be selected and in-game strategies worked out and set up.
Perhaps the best overall sports management game today is Draft Day Sports: Basketball 2021. This game is probably the best developed basketball management game and tops the list of many fan polls.
It could be said that Kevin Toms didn’t just invent football management style games, he also helped create a genre that is used for a variety of sports and also for managing virtual hospitals, theme parks, casinos where you choose which games and slots to install.
It is highly unlikely that when Toms set up Addictive Games he could have imagined the graphical and technological advances that would come. These have helped make future management games so complex.
Consoles and computers have far more powerful processors and more RAM, but without the imagination and skills of programmers and developers, today’s sports management games would be a shadow of what they have become.