Free Transfer: Pay What You Like For Champ Man

By Kieron Gillen on August 18th, 2009 at 12:34 pm.

This is both impressive and – in the gaming space – unprecedented. In a move which echos Radiohead’s honesty box for the download of In Rainbows, Beautiful Game studios have announced that from now until release, if you pre-order the game, you can pay what you like. There’s a £2.50 transaction fee, but you can pay a penny on top of that and get the game. Crikey. The video which announced this and some assorted quick thoughts follow…

Well, it’s a ballsy move to say the least. It’s clearly an attempt to get people who would be fans of Football Manager to try their game. I’m not sure whether to read it as desperation (as in, they need people to play the game) or confidence, belief in the long game and trying to speed up the war of attrition which they spoke about in our recent interview. After all, if they didn’t believe they have something worth playing and that may secure a larger fanbase in future iterations if people would only give it a shot, why would they do a deal like this?

(Well, it’ll get press. But that’s not exactly enough.)

Actually, there is one route to future income from people lured in by this. To quote their page…

Championship Manager 2010 will also feature CM Season Live, also available to order through the Champ Man store, which is updated every month with real player data and information for the 2009/10 football season.

CM Season Live is additional downloadable content, available at just £5 for 6 updates, including all the latest statistics, scores, competition standings, player transfers, player stats, bookings and major injuries plus much more from the 10 leading countries in Europe and can be downloaded directly to the game throughout the season.

In other words, there is a revenue source from people who buy the game on the cheap. That said, it’s still an insanely brave move for a publisher. I’d have thought it’ll mostly cannibalise their already-hardcore fanbase who would have bought the game full price happily. The thing to note there would be the offer is actually solely through their own site and digital download service. As such, like Radiohead, whatever money is given to them is all in their pocket. By dodging a retailer middle-man, it keeps the maximum amount of the cash.

Anyway. Cripes. What do people think? And, this really begs the question: if given the option to pay whatever you want for a game, how much would you pay?

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61 Comments »

  1. SlappyBag says:

    I wouldn’t pay the £40 most retail games are shipping for. I remember when HL2 came out it was £20 or something.

    Its interesting and hopefully they will release the statistics of whether people actually gave them any money at all or just leached because they are horrible foot-to-ball fans.

  2. Mr Pink says:

    This really is an interesting move. It might help reduce piracy I suppose, but who knows?

    I have a similar problem with this to that I had with In Rainbows. At the point of purchase I didn’t know what I wanted to pay, as I didn’t know how good the album was. I know that in this case there is a demo, but that isn’t final code, it’s a beta. I have my concerns about the match engine (players do a LOT of stupid things), but I may be tempted to pay them a nominal fee and see if they can patch it up. I certainly wouldn’t take a punt on it at full price, so I suppose it would be more money than they would otherwise get from me.

  3. Centy says:

    I’ve always avoided these kind of games due to the addictive nature but hell at £2.51 minimum I may just have to try it.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    SlappyBag: HL2 was never twenty quid.

    KG

  5. LewieP says:

    The retail release is still going to be full price, and the fact is that I imagine because of the appeal football management games have outside of the ‘typical gaming audience’, a lot of their potential customers are not ‘down with’ digital distribution. They probably wouldn’t sell many direct if they charged full price.

    Maybe their margins on the retail release would be so low that actually £2.51 + average ‘donation’ is more profitable for them than selling more at retail, since there are no middlemen.

    £2.51 is right there in the impulse purchase range too. Just like what Centy said^, there are going to be people who try this that wouldn’t have even considered it at full price. 8 people paying £2.51 would make them more than one person paying full price for it.

    It’s all very interesting, even if it is a one off.

  6. Ragnar says:

    Can I choose what to pay after I’ve played it for a while? How else would I know if it is worth it.

  7. bansama says:

    I’ve been calling for companies to try this for a long time now. It’s good to see someone brave enough to put the idea in motion (even if only at the pre-order stage).

  8. Cooper says:

    Let’s hope that – unlike Radiohead – they publish details on what people paid.

    Also, I’ve always thought that Sports games were missing a trick by not providing paid-for updates of data. (I guess there’s more revenue to be made by geting people to buy a whole new game each season).

    Maybe they’re taking a gamble that they’ll increase their audience enough through this and get enough subscribers that they make more this way than relying upon a smaller group of fans who will buy the game yearly.

    I hope it works, if only for the sake of proving the possibility of diversifying payment options…

  9. CMaster says:

    HL2 Brozne was $40 over Steam? Think I paid $50 for Silver. Would have email receipts for it somewhere
    Anyway, I’d probably pay between £5-£20 for most games I guess.

    Although if all this hype about cloud gaming and so takes off, I imagine we’ll all just be paying a subscription fee for a gaming package rather like TV packages.

  10. Chris Evans says:

    Very interesting way for them to sell the game, I can see that people will pay the £2.51 or there abouts and then get the CM Season Live. I think that is where they are planning to make the most dosh.

  11. arqueturus says:

    Very astute in my opinion. If ever there was a genre that would benefit for micro-transactional updates than football management.

    Actually, can you imagine the potential scope for this?

  12. groovychainsaw says:

    £20 is the maximum for anything I’m not certain about (and probably being near £10 would help your game no end in my eye). However, if I was positive that the game had been reviewed well (by reputable sources, no less!) and, even better, I’d played a good demo of it then I would definitely pay full price(console rrp being about £35 nowadays). However, that particular planetary alignment nowadays comes up about once a year, so £10-£20 is best for almost everything. For this, which I have no interest in, I may even take a punt for the minimum amount of £2.51 (or even a fiver, if I’m feeling flush)

  13. Sly_Boots says:

    It’s a good idea. If, say Trine had had a similar system in place, I would have paid £10 on top of the transaction fee on the spot, as that’s what I feel it’s worth.

    But, having played the demo of CM10 and not been that impressed, I don’t think I’ll bother even at that price. I’d rather pay £25-odd for the next installment of Football Manager.

  14. Dante says:

    I can only assume this is aimed at getting making it so cheap that Football Manager fans will take a look, most of whom don’t give CM a second look any more.

    They’re taking a loss to try and hijack one of gaming’s biggest built in fanbases.

  15. Ian says:

    I trust myself to be reasonably honest, so I’d maybe give it a go for a tenner (as an extended demo sort of a thing) and then if I liked it I’d probably buy some of the DLC regardless of whether or not I wanted it to bump the price up.

    Maybe. I definitely wouldn’t go in with the sole thought of taking it for £2.50 and scarpering.

  16. RLacey says:

    As someone with remarkably little interest in football – and who has never even played any of these games before – I’m supremely tempted to try one at this price. Hardly a lot to lose, anyway…

  17. Gatsby says:

    You wonder how many of the average-joe, full-price paying non aficionados will be up for DLC, and the reverse of the digital distribution brigade.

    As in, if someone who was downloading it was then grabbing ‘dem updates for the next year, then the £2.51 entry fee wouldn’t be too damaging. And likewise, if you’re only ever going to see one payment from Johnny Retail, then it’s fine that it’s £35, right?

    In any case, I know I’ll be trying CM at this price. Which has never tempted me before.

  18. Ian says:

    I’d be interested to read the experiences of somebody who’s little interest in football treating this purely as a sort of strategy game and seeing how they get on compared to those like me who a) are a bit inept at the best of times and b) carry our real-life judgements on players into the game, often ignoring the perfectly acceptable stats of players we just don’t want.

    A kid I knew at school tried it but he got too engrossed in trying to create a squad entirely of players called Smith.

  19. Arkymedes says:

    Due an error in their website when processing the payment, I bought the game twice.. LOL!

    Now I know how they expect to make money on top of it…

  20. Clovus says:

    @Ian: I might fit that bill. I keep thinking it would be fun to play one of these soccer football management games. I only know the basics of the sport, so I would be approaching it as a confusing strategy game. The fact that there are real players in it would be completely meaningless to me.

    Plus, I would like to encourage this sort of marketing… I think. I bought In Rainbows that way.

  21. Waste_Manager says:

    Even for £2.51 I couldn’t bring myself to play a football management game – even in the name of science for @Ian

  22. Mr Pink says:

    I have a feeling that PCG UK did a feature which was similar to what Ian is suggesting a while back. They got a load of their writers to play genres which they had no familiarity with. I think one had to play a football management game. Might see if I can dig it out. If a non-football fan wants to try it and blog about it I would be interested to read, but I suspect that it may be too esoteric to be enjoyed if you don’t like the sport.

  23. Kieron Gillen says:

    That was me.

    EDIT: Who played Championship Manager.

    KG

  24. Ian says:

    @ Mr Pink/ Kieron: I’d entirely forgotten about that. Were I the sort to keep issues of magazines I’ve already read I might have tried digging it out to have another read.

  25. Rinox says:

    @ Mr Pink

    I haven’t seen the result of the mind/machine melt between Kieron and Footballmanager-o-tron, but I assume that even a complete football layman could enjoy it. the fact that it’s about football is just the gloss and selling point for the game imho, and you certainly don’t need to be a tactical wonder to rise to great heights as a manager (I should know). It’s all about the underlying system, which is robust and brilliant.

    You could replace ‘football’ in the title with rugby, cricket, basketball, F1 and even space empires, stocks and many other things, and it’d still be great. Imho.

    But I can understand how people who hate the sport can’t be bothered to ‘work through’ the surface to the core of the fun. Way I see it though, the game isn’t about football, not really.

  26. Mr Pink says:

    @Rinox
    You might be right. The reason I played them was to live out a fantasy I guess, and I don’t think I would enjoy it otherwise, but maybe that’s just me.

    @Kieron
    Ah, that would make sense. I probably still have the issue somewhere, might have a dig for it. Any idea which one it’s in. I can’t remember how you fared, although I seem to remember most people didn’t really enjoy their forays into unfamiliar territory.

  27. Clovus says:

    Wow, that’s a lot of comments about an article but no links. Does this not exist in a 1′s and 0′s format accessible through the World Wide Web?

  28. Rinox says:

    @ Mr Pink

    Do you mean that you mostly liked to play with the big teams/names and win big trophies? I personally find it more fun to build something of a dynasty by taking over an insiginficant conference team and leading it to the Premier League. This can take 15 seasons or so, which is why I only play FM during the gaming off-season (Spring and Summer) when there’s nothing else interfering with my obsessions, haha.

  29. Mr Pink says:

    I did both, but yes my most satisfying games were turning Division 3 no-hopers into European giants. When I say fantasy I mean controlling a football team in general, be that traditional “fantasy football” with having 11 amazing players for a large budget, or building a dynasty with a cr*p club.

  30. alki says:

    Judging by the demo, 2,5 pounds is about the right price for this garbage.

  31. mrrobsa says:

    As an aside I got HL2 brank spanking new when it came out, delivered for £26. I think about £30 is the most I’d spend if I get a say in it.

  32. mrrobsa says:

    £30 is the most I’d spend on a retail boxed copy, I should specify.

  33. Po0py says:

    Hmf. I suspect they might charge for updates in the January transfer window or something. Even so that would still be a bargain if the game actually turns out to be good. I’m still expecting some kind of catch to this but if it is what they say it is plain and simple then that is impressive.

    Edit: Ah, yes. I see there is a £5 fee for dlc. Still impressive. I think I might give it a try if I can find some reviews first.

  34. Jad says:

    I’m an American and so I have no idea what you guys are talking about, but I’m still interested. Pretty smart marketing then.

    I’m even more tempted to try out your “play it as an abstract strategy game” experiment. I mean, I know the basic rules of soccer, having played it as a kid, but I know nothing about the players or the teams or the leagues or anything.

    When you guys say its a bad game, is it bad in comparison to other games in the genre (which I wouldn’t know anything about) or a poor representation of the sport (which, as I said, I wouldn’t even notice), or is actually just very poorly designed, with a clunky interface and killer bugs (which I certainly will notice)?

  35. Matt says:

    I rather liked this game until I saw the ‘bespoke’ 3D engine, which is bad beyond belief. Seriously; the players just fall over the ball and each other. The set-piece editor is much of the same… very nice to use until you actually get the players to run through it and they just chimp around like chimps.

    I reinstalled Football Manager 2009 after playing the demo for CM2010 and the match engine works fine. The menus and overall design aren’t as nice, but at least you can see players acting out what you tell them to.

    Or is the match engine only being crap for me? I’d expect some sort of uproar considering how bad its made the game experience for me.

  36. Wulf says:

    On the topic of the price of Half-Life 2, I clearly remember some online-warehouse stores knocking a whole £10 off the retail price in order to sell more copies than the next guy, I believe Play.com was the biggest proponent of ludicrously low prices at the time and I bought mine from them.

    I saw prices ranging between £20, £22, £25, £28, £29 and some pence, up to even over the retail price at £32 and £35. When we were in that magical money bubble before the recession, this kind of thing wasn’t at all uncommon, and I often found myself paying around the £20-£25 mark for even the biggest name retail games.

    And to be honest, anyone who paid more just couldn’t be arsed to look hard enough and probably just bought their copy from Game. And consider, RRPs have raised but there are still retail stores slicing £10 off the price. I mean, Modern Warfare 2 had a pricetag of £39.99, right? Well Amazon, Play, and a few others sliced £10 off that and are selling it at £29.99.

    This kind of thing has always been happening, don’t let rising RRPs colour your view of that. And when the recession passes and we go back into a magical money bubble again, the RRPs will probably drop as publishers realise “Bloody ‘ell, it looks like PC gamers aren’t willin’ t’pay dose kindsa prices!”

    So yeah, HL2 did go for £20 in some places, the slicing of £10 off the price of a game happens now, and it happened back then, t he only thing that’s changed is that publishers are getting more greedy, raising the RRP, and demanding a bigger cut. That’s why we’re getting £40 going to £30, or £35 going to £25, as opposed to £30 going to £20, and £25 going to £15.

  37. Vinraith says:

    Very interesting move. Honestly, if this were a game I was remotely interested in I’d be very motivated to reward this kind of thing. Regardless, they’re to be applauded for showing a little faith i ntheir fans, I hope it works out well for them.

  38. Po0py says:

    So. Does anyone know if the game is actually any good? Is there any reviews out yet? I’ve had a look around the usual places but no luck.

  39. Mr Pink says:

    @Matt: That pretty much mirrors my experience with the match engine mate. It’s a shame, as my limited experience with the rest of the game was reasonably positive.

    @Po0py: Try the demo mate. It’s only a beta, but it should give you an idea.

  40. Orange says:

    That is a pretty extraordinary move for a niche genre game.

    I had no interest in it till now, as if I’m going to play one it would be FM. However may well give it a go for a trivial £2.51.

  41. Rinox says:

    @ Jad:

    It’s not a bad game, it’s just not as good a game as the market leader, the Football Manager series. I hope that answers your question. :-) I can’t speak for the 2010 installment of Championship Manager, but previous ones have been invariably inferior to the Football Manager series, by some margin.

    [History background: Championship Manager is the original name and license of the series, going all the way back to the mid-nineties, and owned by Eidos. Developer Sports Interactive developed every title in the series. But a few years ago there was a rift between the dev studio and Eidos (forgot what the reason was) and Sports Interactive went their own way, creating the Football Manager series as they couldn't operate under the original license anymore. But it is generally accepted that FM is the "true" spiritual continuation of the series, and it is widely considered the subgenre's flagship and benchmark]

    Football Manager is being developed by the dev Sports Interactive who was

  42. Kieron Gillen says:

    The idea of the feature was actually “everyone plays games they wouldn’t and so come to have their tastes widened”. In practice, it just proved what small minded bigots the lot of us are.

    Exception: Jim quite liked his flight sim.

    (Actually, it did serve a purpose for me. I actually had real problems with the actual game design of Champ Manager, so I learned to hate with FACTS instead of just PREJUDICE. What a heartwarming story)

    KG

  43. Ian says:

    Was there a particular reason you went for CM rather than FM?

    Not that it might have helped were it FM09. I’ve been playing CM (then jumped to FM when SI made that instead) since 97/98 and I just couldn’t get into the most recent FM game. Nothing was especially wrong, but for some reason I could never get the match day experience running to my liking which knacked the whole thing for me. FM10 will be getting extensive demo play before I buy.

  44. Autopanda says:

    Interestingly, a lot of “casual” gamers play Football Manager and had terrible problems with Steam and the initial release of Football Manager 2009.

    This means there is an audience who want a football management game that have developed hang-ups about their main choice.

  45. Dan says:

    I’ve played every FM game, but liked them gradually less and less every time, no idea why. Hate the match in engine in 09 at least.

    Got the demo for CM10, played it for about 2 hours, and its…fun. Somehow. It’s still a glorified spreadsheet, but I don’t know, it just makes me go ‘ooh’.

    Will buy this. But I will only give them £2.51, because unlike Radiohead’s fanbase I don’t know how good its going to be, so I’m not going to pay more than the minimum.

  46. Ian says:

    I think FM09 was the first game I’ve bought that I’ve had real, serious DRM issues with, but it’s the game itself I couldn’t get on with.

  47. Dan says:

    ‘….head into your favourite game store to get the Special Edition featuring the full game, Manager’s Notebook, Pencil, CM Season Live™ and a League Structures poster.’

    Pencil!

    But no night vision goggles.

  48. Heliocentric says:

    When i was 11 i used to love these games. Had no interest in foot to ball it was just the tinkering. Watching the ai play the game, buying a super fast player and watching him out run everyone. Playing against a premiership team and trying to use my slower players to hold on to a draw to milk the profits of the 2nd half of a cup match.

    Still don’t like football never did, don’t watch it, don’t play it. But managing it? That felt clever.

    2.51? Maybe i should get this, but tell me, is there any actual playing? I used to enjoy the tactility of playermanager on the amiga because it didn’t feel like it could be bullshit random number generation. He was faster, he kicked further, its in his stats. Also, the limited formation and aggression controls made it like a proto rts.

    So, is the play exposed or “simulated”?

  49. Joshua says:

    If you’re a newcomer to the genre, just go to the official Champ Manager site and download 01/02 for free. Then track down an update patch. It doesn’t have the “bells and whistles”, but its pretty comprehensive, has a decent interface, and is a lot of fun. And is free. My Aston Villa suuuuuuckkkkks though.

    BTW I tried to play Football Manager 09 and it was just… too much. It felt like Sir Alex could just sit in his house all day every day and manage the actual team through that interface.

  50. Pockets says:

    As much as free is the right price and 01/02 is a classic version – unless you’re well into your football in the first place, rather than a passing interest, the text commentary in 01/02 will be a bit too much; the 2d editions make it much clearer for someone who’s new to things to understand how moving the blobs about on the tactics screen will impact how matches play out etc. , and the simplifying out the With Ball / Without Ball thing into the arrows.

    FM ’06 or ’07 are probably my favourites from that point of view really. In fact, after 07 its all been downhill, I’d say.