CrunchArcade: Sports Management Simulations

There is the old saying that those who can’t teach. In the world of sports those who lack the skills and talent become managers. Whether you see yourself as a Jerry Maguire wannabe, or just think you can do a better job of leading your team to Super Bowl glory than say a professional coach, there are a few game titles that will let you show your skills from the front office and behind the scenes. Just remember there is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in “you’re fired.” And remarkably while the idea of management sounds a lot like Sim Work, these games can be more fun than actually watching the actual sport!

Front Office Football 2007/The College Years
Solecismic Software
Platforms: PC
Available as downloads only (that means you won’t find them in stores), Front Office Football 2007 and Front Office Football: The College Years offer a very different style of gameplay than Madden or NCAA College Football. If you’re looking to make the plays, set the offense and see fast moving life-like animations stick to Electronic Arts’ signature franchises. In fact, both of those games have fairly decent modes to let you coach and run the show from behind the scenes as well.

But if you’re looking at just the big picture, including dealing with the value of the franchise, and making sure the team turns a profit then this game is going to be more speed. This is the game for those who read the Wall Street Journal AND the sports section, and catch Sports Center for the news off the field. Hardcore fans of Madden will find this as dull as looking at spreadsheets – but that’s meant as a compliment. Front Office Football is about taking the role of general manager, and while winning and losing is important (winning is almost everything), you have other factors to consider such as keeping the fans happy, and knowing when it might be time to find a new home town (for those times when you can’t keep the fans happy).

The graphics could be considered dated by some standards, but the gameplay is solid. In this simulation you can choose plays, but the core of the game is the battle over players, as well as coaching staff and all those fun factors. There are even online multiplayer modes where you can take part in a league, and possibly work your way up to commissioner. How’s that for sim work?

Baseball Mogul
Enlight Software
ESRB: Everyone
Platforms: PC
Baseball is either viewed as the ultimate Zen experience as one man must stand alone for the team, or alternatively it is more boring than watching paint dry. Either way the action isn’t limited to the diamond. As the General Manager (GM), you have to build a lineup of the best players to take your team to the World Series – or at least not come in dead last. This means making player trades, and signing talent to multi-year contracts. You’ll also get to manage the finances of your club as well, and raise revenue by selling the TV broadcast rights, managing the farm team and determining tickets and even concessions. Oh you know guys like George Steinbrenner probably worry about the price of hot dogs, and now so can you!

And don’t worry that you’ll end up like Billy Martin if you fail at first. Baseball Mogul provides a “do-over” should you require another at bat. Use your scouts to get the best talent from college and high school players, but be ready for serious negotiations with any up and coming superstars.

You can play full seasons from 1901 to 2007, with revenue levels and salaries automatically adjusted. And the game also lets you take the field with your team. You can set the lineup and pitching rotation for your team as well, and even watch the games as they’re played. You don’t have control over every pitch, but if the players disappoint, you can always send them packing to the minor leagues!

Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball
Wolverine Studios
Platform: PC
From coaching during the big game to determine the logos and jerseys for the team, Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball lets you manage every facet of life on the court. You can manage the starting lineup and substitutions, and create your own professional basketball league from the ground-up. This simulation gives you the chance to play strictly as the coach, or as General Manager and run the show from the front office.

The 2D visuals are a little flat, and watching the actual basketball games is far from seeing the NBA playoffs in high definition. However, as a management simulation this captures the finer points of basketball as a business. Having trouble with your superstar players? No worries, trade them for younger (and cheaper) talent. Your coach only brings you to the championship but doesn’t deliver, he’s replaceable too. That triple-A talent is bringing in the fans, well then, it’s time for a raise.

This downloadable game even offers a three-day trial so you can take to the court and decide whether you’ll want to make a fast break instead.

NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 2007
ESRB: Everyone
Platform: PC
While NHL is in the title, you can also take the helm of the AHL, DEL and Swedish professional hockey leagues as well. In total there are more than 45,000 players and staff, with more than 3,000 actual teams represented! You can manage a professional team, and with some wheeling and dealing even build your fantasy dream team by drafting the very best players. And you can decide on your team’s own playing style through a variety of tactical options and sliders.

As with some of the other games the graphics are a little flat, but this one actually looks far from dated. This year’s game has been updated to provide a more compelling experience, letting you watch some of the games as they unfold.

NHL East Hockey Manager 2007
also is fairly intuitive, and features a robust interface that isn’t just spreadsheets and figures. Thanks to a colorful display, and streamlined controls the game is simple to play. Mastering the art of the deal, and making the most of your players’ skills is the hard part.

Pro Cycling Manager/Tour de France 2007
Focus Software
ESRB: EC (Early Childhood)
Platforms: PC
This one arrives just in time for the start of the longest bicycle race in the world, and Pro Cycling Manger recreates the race in every small detail – except maybe for the doping allegations and controversies surrounding some of the rides. Fortunately this game focuses on the finer aspects of this most grueling sport. And while it seems an odd choice to manage, there is actually as much behind the scenes going on as there is at the head of the peloton.

This game lets you play as manager of the one of 60 official teams, and while the premier Tour de France is included, there are also more than 180 playable races, with more than 500 individual stages, which you can watch in real time. As the sports manager you’ll have to organize the signing of the contracts, manage the team to make sure you have a mix of riders, and schedule the training and race events. If you thought it was just a lone rider going out, think again. Major bicycle races are team events, and while individuals like Lance Armstrong shine, others whose job is it to block, pull and basically make sure guy’s like Lance looks like king of the road help him along.

The game also has single and multiplayer modes, which include single races, tours and a full season of cycling. If you thought biking was just for the paperboy, think again. And while the graphics aren’t the best we’ve seen in a sports simulation they are far from the flat 2D versions seen in these other management sims. It might not be the same as heading to France to catch the race in progress, but it is still a very nice looking game that will certainly appeal to cycling fans!