Electronic Arts and Tiger Woods end relationship
According to Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal, Tiger Woods and Electronic Arts, one of Tiger’s biggest sponsors, have decided to part ways.
As Fisher notes, EA was one of the few companies that stuck by Tiger after his personal life was exposed a few years ago, and up until this point, they had been paying him a substantial amount of money. Reports had the most recent deal, which Tiger signed in 2007, listed as being worth around $80 million. Tiger, for his part, isn’t struggling for money, so I’m sure that this arrangement ending isn’t going to affect his bottom line very much, but the timing is interesting on the part of EA.
Since their arrangement began in 1998, the game has usually been a critical hit, and has sold well commercially, with sales across all platforms and years exceeding 30 million units worldwide. In recent years though, Tiger hasn’t been at the forefront of the game, as his last solo appearance on the game’s box art was for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10. In the years since, he’s shared the cover with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros, along with being left off the cover completely for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 when EA was able to grab the official rights to use Augusta National in the game.
So, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that this happened and apparently the split is a mutual one, but the timing is still interesting. Obviously EA felt that the amount of money they were paying Tiger was too much in comparison to what they were getting out of him, but there’s no other current golfer on the planet that will bring in the kind of sales as Tiger does just by having his likeness on the cover. Sure, EA could put Augusta on the cover again, or they could go with legendary figures like Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson, but I find it hard to believe that they’ll have anywhere near the kind of draw that way.
There’s another thing to consider here too: with Tiger no longer lending his name to the game, we can assume that he won’t be a playable character either, which is going to take the enjoyment out of it for a lot of potential buyers as well. Tiger’s involvement in the game has often been thought of as a blocker for other players to become playable, such as Phil Mickelson, who has never made an appearance in the annual title, theoretically because the two have never gotten along. Without Tiger though, I’ve got serious doubts that EA makes anywhere near the amount of money that they’ve been making in recent years.
The plan is still to produce the game, so it’s going to be interesting to see what direction EA decides to go here, but my bet is on a retro choice.
It will be interesting to see what the sales figures are like for the next installment because being associated with Tiger Woods is still a major boost to anything (just see the ticket sales or viewing figures of PGA events he plays compared to when he doesn’t). It would be better for the game if they started to release it biannually as well because unlike other sports games, golf doesn’t change that much that a yearly release is truly needed. However we all know that EA are all about the money, so I doubt that will happen.