Championship Manager (CM) was the all-conquering football management game franchise until the original creators, Sports Interactive, left the fold. They went on to regenerate the Football Manager brand and have topped the charts since 2004 while CM has floundered with a series of much-criticised releases.
CM skipped their 2008 release in order to concentrate on really putting a quality product out in 2009. Last week they released their CM2010 demo (to a fair share of cricitism) and today made a startling announcement when series manager Roy Meredith revealed that the game would be available for as little as 1p.
You can now pre-order the game on http://www.champmanstore.com until midnight on September 10th choosing to pay as much or as little as you like with the addition of a £2.50 handling charge. The game can then be downloaded from the site on release day. After this time it will be available at the usual retail price of £25.
This is thought to be the first time that the game industry has seen such a move and it has taken many by surprise. Game publishers Eidos are following the lead of rock band Radiohead’s decision to release their 2007 album “In Rainbows” on their website with the cost decided by the downloader. There are differing views on whether or not it was a success but when the album was released on CD three months later it went to number one in the UK and US.
The potential difference between CM2010 and “In Rainbows” is that the latter received overwhelmingly strong reviews. If the reaction to last week’s demo is anything to go by, CM may have a tougher time convincing the music-buying public that their product is worth paying full price for.
But if they do release a competent game (and after playing the demo for a short while I think they are closer than they’ve ever been in the last five years) then there’s no doubt that this move is great publicity for the brand.
I blogged last November about Football Manager 2009 and what was, in my view, a cynical increase of more than £5 on the usual price point of £18 or £19. Here we were, already tasting recession and rather than keep the price low, they (retailers? publishers?) put it up. Needless to say I found an alternative way to play the game and did so until I found a reasonable deal six weeks after release.
With Football Manager popping up at a pre-sale price-point of about £25-29 again this year, I certainly will not be buying until it drops below £20. However, my interest is certainly piqued by the Championship Manager offer and with the option of paying as little as £2.51 for it – the cost of a coffee – it’s hard to see how one could turn that down.
How many others are there out there like me?
I assume that Eidos have done their maths here and this move is all about getting the game in to more hands and rebuilding the brand for future releases. CM2010 may not make them any money but next year’s game may benefit.