The Preston company behind a massively popular app talk to David Nowell.
Ten years ago, three young brothers and a colleague set themselves a goal.
They set it out in a mission statement: “To make the world’s best soccer manager game and let the world play it for free!”
Now Soccer Manager Ltd’s online games have more than 10 million registered users around the globe – and have been translated into 39 languages.
The Preston firm is now aiming even higher – with a £1m investment helping them to reach new markets including the Far East.
Nor bad for a game that is free to download for anyone. The company earns money from associated advertising and a range of add-ons which players can purchase.
From employing a handful of people in its offices at Preston docks, Soccer Manager now has 21 employees – soon to rise to around 28. And it is still expanding.
It has now been given the backing of Mercia Technologies, which specialises in the funding and commercialisation of technology businesses in the UK.
Soccer Manager was founded in 2004 by Andrew Gore, his brothers Steven and Chris, and website developer Peter Adams.
They launched the multi-player Soccer Manager Worlds a year later.
Andrew had already been employed on a soccer-based game for Gameboy so had the technical know-how.
He and his brothers thought about the games they had enjoyed playing – and set about launching the sort of online game that they would enjoy themselves.
The multi-player Soccer Manager Worlds was the result. It enabled online team managers to buy and sell players and then compete against other managers and teams.
Having set up the domain name www.soccermanager.com, they spread the word to family and friends and established an online community enjoying the game. Suddenly other users popped up, in countries like Portugal and Spain. It kept growing, and the overseas players asked for the game to be translated into their language. So it grew again.
Managing director Andrew Gore said: “It’s incredible. It is now played in just about every country around the world. It’s played on islands that we have never even heard of.”
He added: “We wanted to self publish and to be independent. We wanted to make the world’s best soccer management game – and let the world play it for free. We have never done any serious advertising, it has spread purely by word of mouth.”
With the arrival of smart phones, Soccer Manager went to another level. Its games can now be picked up across a range of devices, allowing players complete portability and access.
Operations director Steve said: “There are people still playing that have been with us for 10 years.
“We don’t use sneaky tricks to get people to spend money – it’s free but you can buy extra features it you want. We make our money from non-intrusive advertising. We spend a lot of time talking to Google – when you have massive pop-up adds it works against you. They won’t come back to the site if the advertising is too annoying.”
After the success of Soccer Manager Worlds, the team spent three years developing the single-player Soccer Manager 2015.
Available on Android, desktop, Google, Facebook and iOS, Soccer Manager 2015 can be updated with new seasons and player transfer windows via its sister Wiki site, soccerwiki.org, and a data pack uploading system.
It has also been a great success, and the £1m investment from Mercia Technologies means they can roll it out in more countries around the world.
The Mercia funds will be utilised for marketing, further game development and translation of Soccer Manager 2015 into Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
Mercia had already pumped £300,000 into the business last year and Lancashire’s Rosebud Fund has also backed the business .
Mark Payton, Chief Executive Officer of Mercia Technologies PLC, said: “Soccer Manager is a scalable business that addresses the global and expanding market for soccer-based gaming, which has an estimated value of more than $100 billion worldwide and an annual compound growth rate of eight per cent.
“The founders of Soccer Manager have been developing the business for the past nine years and are clearly passionate about two things: soccer and technology.
“We are delighted to be working with them.”