Whether it be taking your team all the way or bravely fighting off relegation, countless hours have been spent by millions playing Football Manager. 

And it would seem that 2020 has been no different with the creators of the popular game releasing data which shows a boom in the popularity of the 2020 edition since lockdown. 

Speaking exclusively to The Herald, Tom Davidson of Sports Interactive Games, said that they had seen a significant increase in gaming time as a result of lockdown and a free trial of their product. 

He said: “We felt that people’s mental well-being was going to be impacted by the Covid-19 restrictions and we know that FM is an excellent form of escapism so we decided very early on into the lockdown period that we would make the game free to play for a week. 

“The take up was overwhelming and far beyond what we expected and so we worked with our parent company, SEGA, and our friends at Steam to extend the free period for a second week.

READ MORE: Football Manager 2020: Scottish football fans can download game for FREE amid SPFL coronavirus shutdown

“In terms of the numbers from the free fortnight, we had just over 877,000 people playing the game during that period and we smashed our previous record of peak concurrency (i.e the number of people playing the game at the same time). Prior to the free fortnight this stood at just over 80,000 but we reached 189,000 at one point during that period.”

SI Games has added 20 members of staff to their team since lockdown, with Football Manager 2021 hotly anticipated. 

Speaking on the 2021 edition, he admitted that the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted the launch of the future installment saying: “Internally, we’re calling this period ‘business as unusual’ as we’ve been able to continue work on our games throughout this period. 

“The team has adapted brilliantly to working remotely, although some of the team were already doing so prior to the Covid-19 crisis. 

“We’re now in the position where we are able to work like this for as long as it takes.

“Of course, this unprecedented period has brought a number of challenges. 

“First and foremost is the fact that we still don’t know the full details of how the next football season is going to look in terms of scheduling and rules. 

“We are very much being kept informed by the relevant authorities and organisations but there it’s a very fluid situation.

“It’s also been harder from a production perspective.”

“It’s a lot easier to create games when you’re working in close proximity and we’ve had to scale our plans upwards and downwards, often because people’s circumstances have changed.”

He added that he expected the popularity of gaming to continue well past lockdown saying: I think what this Covid-19 crisis has shown is that games are an excellent form of escapism and I only expect their popularity to continue in the coming months.  

READ MORE: Football Manager 2020: The starting transfer budget for sides in the Scottish Premiership

“Esports have also been hugely popular during this period and actually helped to fill the gap left by real sports.

“I don’t think many people would’ve thought that FIFA tournaments and virtual F1 races would be given prime-time billing on Sky but they were really entertaining and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw these official esports events become bigger and more regular in the coming years.”

Davidson also had insight into the popularity of the Scottish league on the 2020 version game saying: “Celtic and Rangers are the two most popular Scottish teams to manage in FM but the Scottish leagues as a whole are popular worldwide. 

“A lot of experienced FM players see it as a challenge to take a team from outside the Premiership and take them all the way to the top, dethroning the Old Firm on the way.”