At the London Games Conference last week, Sports Interactive’s Miles Jacobson revealed that over 10.1m people had illegally downloaded Football Manager 2012. A ‘flaw’ in the code for a cracked version of Football Manager 2013 had allowed the studio to track the IP addresses of anyone playing the game. We caught up with Miles to dig deeper into the numbers.“Obviously it doesn’t make us feel good, because we’d like to get paid for the work we do.” he says. “But it’s the reality of the world we live in, so it’s not something I’m going to lose any sleep over. However, we base the number of people we have on the team on the amount we’re selling. If we did get that extra revenue, we would grow the team, which would make the game better for everyone.”Indeed, being uncracked for an unusually-long six months (the previous year’s FM was only uncracked for two weeks) has allowed SI to make six new hires. This is due to the boost in FM’s sales from remaining uncracked for so long and due to Sega’s internal policy of linking budgets to previous years’ results.Football Manager has always had copy protection systems – readers may remember the FM 2009 debacle, which locked legitimate users out and which Miles calls “the worst 72 hours of my life.” – but this policy of preventing and tracking illegal downloads seems to be a part of a definite strategy, with a separate Sega tech team.Ten million people who definitely don’t pirate it for the graphics.

Though Jacobson repeatedly referred to the tracking code as a ‘flaw’, he does admit to me it was an intended piece of tech. “The flaw was in the crack was that they didn’t strip that out. I don’t want to go too deep into what the flaw was, because I don’t want to crack it too wide open. What they did is for them to comment on. All we know is that in the same way that any user playing through Steam gives it unique information unless they’ve opted out, the cracked version gave us the same information.”Movie companies chase down the IPs of illegal downloaders and sometimes prosecute. And Sports Interactive has the IPs of people in many countries where any similar prosecution would be likely to succeed. Would they do it? “It’s something that some people involved in the project have considered doing – but it’s not something I would consider. It’s more important to educate people and stop it happening in the first place. But taking legal action against 10.1 million? Oh, come on.”Of course, only 1.8 million of the illegal downloaders have played the game five times or more. “We release every year a half-season demo before the game is released. So, one, people can make their own mind up whether they want to buy the game or not, aside from the reviews which are quite wide-ranging. Two, no-one has excuse for pirating our game, because we let them try it for free. Half a season is a lot of playtime.”