Subbuteo Tribute Website.
Subbuteo Football Clones in the 21st Century.
Total Soccer (2009-11). Netcam's Subbuteo Clone.
For modern Subbuteo players (and visitors to this website) Spanish company Netcam Iberia Valores, are best known for their licence to produce Subbuteo products, which ran from 2012. However, for a couple of years prior to this they produced a little dry run for their Subbuteo range, featuring many of the innovations that was repeated in their official range. As this was a short-lived game, with a manageable number of products it is worth a quick overview in my opinion. Plus the teams are lovely.
Netcam Iberia Valores.
Before the arrival of Total Soccer, the Subbuteo clone market was split between Zëugo, from established Italian toy brand Edilio Parodi, and the smaller manufacturers who were providing innovative products for the adult playing/collecting market.
Netcam were really the first established company from outside of the Subbuteo community to pitch products to the table soccer market. Netcam already produced football related figures (they had a range called FT Champs), so table soccer was a fairly logical step for them. Plus, they already had the experience of modern football licensing agreements, so they could step right in with authorised club products. Zëugo had not gone down this route, and it was beyond the resources of the smaller manufacturers. They usually had to rely on the big clubs not taking an interest in what they were doing.... Indeed, some ebay team painters have told of receiving "cease and desist" style letters from the lawyers of un-amused clubs.... Such is the big business of football in the 21st century.
As I write this in 2020, Netcam Iberia Valores seem to have ceased to exist. At some point in the Subbuteo era, their name disappeared, to be replaced by Eleven Force. Eleven Force have various Hasbro licences for Spain including Monopoly, along with a lot of sports licensing products. Whether they will remain involved with Subbuteo, or whether Total Soccer is revived at some point remains to be seen.
Total Soccer - The Product
Total Soccer arrived in 2009, and was actually quite a revelation. At the time, Subbuteo in the UK was in the doldrums. The Photo-real experiment was fading away, and no new products were on the horizon. Even though Total Soccer was never officially released in the UK, it did cause a stir in the community.
The game is classic Subbuteo, and it is hard really to find anything different to say about it. The ball, the goals, the pitch, the shooting areas.... It's a straight-up clone. There were no extra frills added to this basic product, and there was very little in the way of an accessory range. Astrobase suggests spare goalkeepers and a range of balls. There was a referee pack produced for the official 2010 World Cup range.
Rather controversially, the game did not just clone classic Subbuteo. The bases were pretty much a direct copy of the Raptor base developed by small British table soccer manufacturer Stefan Corda. The player figure had more than a hint of Stefan Corda's 2K4 figure as well (albeit in a different material). This was done without permission, and clearly saved on development costs.... and it leaves a bad taste. The affair is not helped by Netcam later gaining official status I suppose.
What this extra cloning of Stefan Corda did though was align the product with the table soccer playing community. Netcam were making a mass-market product which could be used in the adult playing environment. Indeed, Netcam proceeded to used the logos of the big table soccer organisations such as FISTF and the ETSA prominently on their boxes. I suspect these marketing devices were pretty cheap to licence.... A lot less so you would say, than the other licences that Netcam obtained - those of major teams and competitions.....
All the sets have spare goalkeepers on bases for goal kicks etc, showing that the manufacturer understood the modern table soccer game where these items are a must. The goals are a really chunky affair with round posts, and big nets.
The Team/Boxed Edition Range.
As one of the major innovations of Total Soccer production was to tie in the boxed editions to their licensed team range, it is impossible to look at the teams and editions separately. Full boxed Editions were produced for local derbies, and big national and international clashes. For example, although Total Soccer did not have a Champions League licence, a Barcelona vs Manchester United edition was bought out to represent the 2010 final.
Even the generic version of the box set was designed so that the individual team boxes slotted into it - whilst still displaying their branding - so a quick "licensed" set could be produced as occasion demanded!
The team range arrived in 2009 with just three teams - Real Betis, Real Madrid, and Valencia. Later in the same season saw an expansion in Spain to seven sides, plus four Italian sides and a couple of English ones. The second full year of production added a couple more Spanish sides (and a Madrid away), plus four more Italian teams, and for the first (and last) time two Greek teams. Many of the original kits were then updated, so there are variations to look for.
Looking at the players themselves, we do at least, reach the one key innovation in the Total Soccer game, and the one that they carried over into their Subbuteo production. This was the flexible "rubber-style" figures. These bendy players (which I suppose makes them more like Airfix soldiers of old!), makes the teams much more robust, and much better suited as a child's toy. Netcam were still able to print accurate kits onto the figures, and they don't adversely affect the teams in play (indeed, they are quite a light figure), so there is very little down side.
The fact that the teams produced were all officially licensed products certainly added to the allure. The kits had nice detail including badges and shirt adverts. Early sides had a sheet of numbers/name stickers for the backs of the shirts (tiny little stickers!), but the later kits just had numbers printed on. The boxes are unique for each team, and they do look a premium product. The players have individual touches both in the moulds (like players with big hair) and in the printing. So you have recognisable players - for example the Liverpool side had a red-head for John Arne Riise.
However, after all those pluses, the final quality control of the product was often disappointing. The round pin of the player did not fit inside the base very well, and more often than not it sat up on top. In addition, teams I've handled had a problem with the dreaded "base rattle" - i.e. the weights had not been glued in properly. This improved in later teams, but was still a disappointment.
Later in the production run, Total Soccer gained a licence for the 2010 World Cup, and eleven top sides were produced for this tournament. Once again, boxed editions were released featuring various team match ups. I have seen Italy vs Brazil, Spain vs Brazil, and Spain vs Argentina. There are probably more. The Italy vs Brazil that I own includes a small card recreation of the World Cup, and a large Italian flag. There was also a referees set, which later carried over into the Subbuteo range.
After the world cup finished, several of the national sides received new kits in new non-World Cup branded boxes. However, this was nearly the end of the range, as the Subbuteo licence arrived in 2012.
Please note that the dating of this page is from my own notepads of the time, checked against the dates of the real kits. It is possible that the Spanish releases were a little earlier in date than those given, which was when I saw them on the retail websites in Italy and the UK.
The Spanish Team Range (2009-2011).
(left to right) Real Madrid (09-10) and (10-11) and 2nd, Betis (09-10), Valencia (09-10), Barcelona (09-10) and (10-11), and 2nd, Cadiz, Atletico Madrid, Espanyol and Sevilla.
|Real Madrid 2nd||----||Yes||----|
Looking at the real kits, I think the original three are from 2008-09 season, and then we get those from 2009-10 and 2010-11. I've put the dates up top of the table, but it causes a little trouble to when I think they were released.
I'm not 100% sure of all the alternative releases, but hopefully this gives some idea of the teams that are out there. The original three teams (Betis, Real Madrid, and Valencia) included a ball within the team packaging, but this was dropped later on.
The Italian Team Range (2010-2011).
Illustrated (left to right), both AC Milan, both Inter sides, Juventus (2009-10), both Roma, Fiorentina, Lazio and Napoli.
The English Range (2010-2011).
Perhaps appropriately for a range not released in the UK, there were only two English teams produced. Would it be rude to call them the big two? Maybe.
The Greek Range (2011).
Another country with a large table soccer community, and two official Greek sides were produced. I'm guessing Olympiakos wanted too much money for their licence. The game was officially released in Greece, as I have seen World Cup boxes with Greek wording.
The National Teams 2010 and 2011.
|Team Name||2010 World Cup||2011 version|
The main illustration here comes from a Total Soccer advertising leaflet included in their World Cup edition. Netcam never did an Argentina in their Subbuteo range, so if you want a "flexible" one, this is currently the only option. Greece made sense from a Table Soccer perspective, but Japan seems quite leftfield. Was this a possible market expansion?
Astrobase has these five very different international team outfits that do not have World Cup boxes. How many extra teams were done, needs to be confirmed.
The Vintage Teams.
|AC Milan 1901|
|Inter Milan 1909|
The final range was a selection of vintage kits, which were described as "limited edition". This was another key Stefan Corda innovation which ended up being copied by several other ranges including the partworks and Soccer 3D. This "copy" looks more blatant than some of the others, with figures that are unmistakeably based on the Stefan Corda version. Like the later National sides shown above, I have only seen these sides at Astrobase in Italy. They are described as Limited Edition. The Manchester City is a plain blue and white kit, with no badges or trim. This is an odd additional side, but I guess the feeling was that Manchester City were not in the official modern range, and they had suddenly become big enough to sell teams.
The Total Soccer Kits.
These two teams were often offered as the second team in generic box sets, but were also sold separately. They both have Total Soccer chest adverts, which is a nice touch, and were obviously designed to make sure a non-clashing team could be provided in the general editions. As both the English teams are red wearers, the blue/yellow team is probably more common in the UK!
And that's about your lot! Visit the other clone pages below, or perhaps leap forward to Netcam's Subbuteo range 2012 onwards.