Jan 6, 2011
EA Sports and Tiger Woods have worked together since 1999, creating Tiger Woods Golf (and its many other named iterations). The game, which was a perennial best seller, struggled last year amidst Tiger’s marriage woes, and less than stellar play. EA Sports, almost sensing a Tiger backlash, added golfer Rory McIlroy to the cover, in what was probably an effort to mitigate the damage of “Tiger-gate”. Apparently, even EA’s attempt to mitigate couldn’t save the game from disastrous sales,
According to videogame analyst David Cole of DFC Intelligence, sales of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 were down 50% to 60% on a worldwide basis from 2009. While EA stood by their cover athlete, they did not work with him to promote the game last year. Traditionally, Woods does media interviews and appearances to launch each new game. (via THR)
This year? Forget sharing the cover, Tiger didn’t even make the cover…of his own video game. His replacement? The yellow flag of Augusta National.
Choosing a flag over the person for whom the game is named may have given the impression that EA was looking to dump Tiger — its become a familiar theme — but this apparently is not the case,
“If the insinuation is it’s a reflection of EA Sports backing away from its relationship that goes back literally 13 years with Tiger, that’s not the case whatsoever,” said (EA Sports President, Peter) Moore. “You shouldn’t read anything into the fact that Tiger’s not featured on the box art of that particular edition…Tiger is right there on the PS3 version of the game with Move support, which was very good for us and Sony last year. We’ll continue that.”
“Obviously, it was a difficult year last year, but you saw towards the end of the season Tiger starting to get back to his old ways,” said Moore. “We all, as both a sports industry and sports fans, are hopeful he comes back in full force in 2011.” (Woods is on the cover of the Collectors Edition of the game for Playstation 3 –Ed.)
The fact that Woods and EA saw shrinking sales on last year’s video game is really a microcosm of the problem with golf generally; all of its eggs are in one basket. Tiger Woods is the only reason the casual fan watches golf. As much as the PGA may want you to believe otherwise, Tiger is golf. After him, there is so little marketability that golf returns to the pre-Tiger market of wealthy white males with country club memberships. This is fine if you’re looking to keep your sport exclusive, but not so enticing if you’re actually looking to maximize revenue. Face it, for better or for worse, Woods is so intricately woven into the fabric of golf and the revenue of golf that any chink in his armor can spell disaster for the entire sport and all revenue streams associated with the sport.
Sadly, even a tarnished Tiger is still apparently more marketable than the rest of the PGA field. Don’t believe me? Just ask the company that would rather put a flag on the front of its game and hope for Tiger’s return, than to back away from Tiger and go without an endorser, or sign another player on the tour.
Its that kind of logic that should keep PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem up at night.