[Update: Check out our review of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 here!]
Even if you don't know much about golf, it's likely that you still know Tiger Woods, the man who has become the face of not only EA's golf franchise, but the sport as a whole. The infamous scandals surrounding the man's indiscretions over the past year have done a great deal to tarnish his reputation, and apparently EA Sports is doing some damage control. With the announcement trailer and cover art for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters now revealed, it would appear that Tiger is taking second billing to the game's greatest tournament.
Whether the decision to spotlight the game's most famous American course is a direct effort to shift attention from Tiger Woods to the game itself can't be known, but after the previous game's shockingly disappointing sales it was safe to assume that the developers would have to change something.
Until now the Masters Tournament and Augusta National Golf Club have been unattainable for golf games, making Bobby Jones' American answer to St. Andrew's a veritable holy grail of sports gaming. At long last the course and tournament will be making their debut in PGA Tour 12, and the announcement trailer shows just how dedicated the team has been to making the transition a perfect one.
CBS's Jim Nantz will be narrating the action along with David Feherty, marking another notable addition to the franchise as one of golf's most-recognized commentators. According to EA, the new voices of the game are just one part of a "completely revamped TV broadcast presentation package."
Check out the trailer below to see what course EA thinks is capable of stealing some of the spotlight from the one they call Tiger:
The titular golfer is noticeably incognito on the covers of the regular release games, but featured much more prominently on the PS3's Collector's Edition. The special edition features the same PlayStation Move-compatiblity as the regular release, as well as five additional courses. For a game bearing his name, the featuring of the game's subtitle over that of Tiger Woods may lead some to speculate that EA is now doubting the man's ability to drive sales.
EA boss John Riccitiello had previously implied that the success of the Tiger Woods branding depended on his performance, but EA Sports' Peter Moore has since clarified that the addition of the Masters to the cover isn't a reflection on the company's opinion of Woods. In an interview with Eurogamer, Moore explained the the decision wasn't based on Woods at all.
Augusta National and the Masters is something that fans have been deprived of, and Moore stated that the featuring of the event on the box art is a fan service, showing that they're set to give fans something that they've been "literally begging for for close to a decade," and that there is no truth to the idea of EA distancing itself from the face of the franchise:
"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. This is obviously a very important day in our history and an important day in the world of golf videogames, and focusing on the Masters is the right thing to do.
"But 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...This is something that's very special, very different. You shouldn't read anything into the fact that Tiger's not featured on the box art of that particular edition."
Not one to turn away any sponsorships, especially given recent events, Tiger Woods has given his approval of the addition to the series, and has high hopes for the result:
"This is great for the sport and will connect a new audience with the Masters, a tournament I've been fortunate to experience since 1995. Continually growing the visibility of golf is important to attracting newcomers to the sport, and I agree that showcasing the Masters Tournament in the game will bring an entirely new dimension to that approach."
Conspiracy theories aren't that likely, since the re-focusing of the game is just good business sense. If they have more than one star on which to focus this recent release, then why not change things up to avoid a repeat of last year's sales decline? As Moore points out, this is something that fans have been asking for for a long time, so it would seem like the perfect opportunity to drive sales by finally unveiling it to the world.
The game will also feature a few new game modes, like 'Masters Moments,' giving players the opportunity to re-enact some of the tournament's most famous shots. 'Tiger at the Masters' should sound familiar to those who have played NBA 2K11, as it calls on the player to measure up to the legend, and relive each of Tiger's 4 wins. The addition to the NBA 2K franchise was well-liked, so apparently EA is learning from its competition.
Regardless of Tiger's recent performance, this game already seems to be more focused on the hard work of those at EA Sports than any one athlete. The game is offering an experience that every golfer and golf fan would kill for, so EA is clearly hoping that they'll at least be willing to pay for it.
Players will have the chance to win a green jacket of their own when Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters is released for the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii on March 29, 1011.
Source: EA, Eurogamer