The Football Manager series has always been one of the most popular games on Steam. But if you checked out the reviews for Football Manager 2017, you’d assume something was very, very wrong.
The game currently has a 30% user rating on Steam out of 1,110 reviews. That’s pretty bad by normal standards, but it’s also well out of whack with how popular the series is usually. You’ll never see Football Manager knocking off, say, Dota or Counter-Strike, but it always has tens of thousands of regular players. Even FM2017, which is still in beta until later this week, has nearly 10,000 concurrent players at the time of writing and more than 100,000 estimated digital sales.
So, what’s the issue?
Late last week, Sports Interactive announced community translations would be available as part of FM17’s integration with the Steam Workshop.
“As much as we’d love to translate the game into every language, it’s often not possible for us to do so,” the company announced. And it’s not like SI doesn’t localise Football Manager into other languages; FM17 alone supports 16 languages out of the box, with font support for Latin and Cyrillic character sets, Japanese, Hebrew and Arabic.
And while there’s also support for traditional and simplified Chinese characters, the game hasn’t been translated into Chinese.
The anger is stemming from a comment Miles Jacobson, the studio director of Sports Interactive and an OBE recipient in 2011, made five years ago:
@Talentconan to do a Chinese translation, we'd need 20k of the people currently pirating to buy the game. And that's not going to happen.
— Miles Jacobson (@milesSI) October 25, 2011
It’s worth noting that the FM series has never been translated into Chinese, likely for that very reason. Localisation is a costly and time-intensive process, even for the largest of studios. It’s a little easier for FM than, say, a fully voice-acted blockbuster like Call of Duty, but you can’t blame the developers for investing where it makes sense.
But fans were convinced that if they purchased enough copies, SI would translate the game into simplified or traditional Chinese. A lot changes in five years, though, something Jacobson explained on Twitter not long after FM2017’s Steam rating began to tank.
Jacobson even tweeted that he and his family had received a death threat, even though SEGA has since come out and announced that they “have begun work on translating Football Manager 2017 and Football Manager Touch 2017 into Traditional Chinese”.
“SEGA are also considering simplified Chinese options. At this moment, there is no solid release date for the localised versions but we would like to reassure our Chinese fan base that a version is coming,” the announcement read.
The move hasn’t been met with universal acclaim yet though, with fans saying SEGA should translate the game into simplified Chinese first, rather than traditional Chinese. Some cheekily suggested that it’ll only result in reviews complaining about traditional Chinese, although the overall response has been thankful.
Still, it’s a rough spot for SI to be in. Despite suggestions otherwise, there was never any promise or ironclad guarantee was ever given out by Jacobson or SI. He was simply making the point that the cost-benefit didn’t justify a translation at that time, and it still doesn’t:
@owenzou1 …hasn't happened. We did not sell 20k more copies of FM16 in China than FM12. So at no point have I lied or broken a promise.
— Miles Jacobson (@milesSI) October 29, 2016
But SEGA have stepped in to fund a traditional Chinese localisation nonetheless. It’s a shame SI didn’t get to announce the move themselves; they might have at least gotten a bit more well-deserved goodwill, or at least a respite from the backlash. Nonetheless, it shows that in game development, sometimes you just can’t win.