, 2022-10-14 14:47:16,
Cameras flash while A-listers like Michael Phelps and Miss America smile in front of a backdrop that boasts American corporate excellence: XBox 360, EA Sports and GameStop. The alcohol is flowing in this dark Manhattan venue on an evening in the summer of 2008, and the sound system is blasting the Black Eyed Peas and Britney Spears at shattering decibels. Tiger Woods’ face is plastered all over LCD screens and polygons displayed on XBox and Nintendo Wii consoles, the new hot commodities. The VIP guests have been given one enticing assignment: Play the new Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 video game on the eve of its release.
Tiger graciously shares the spotlight. Paula Creamer, 23, is one of the newest additions to the series, which had begun including LPGA stars just a few editions earlier. She effuses delight, citing the game as required British Open prep. But she refuses to play as herself, opting instead for the cover star. “Tiger!” she says. “I can’t play as myself.”
All this hype for a video-game rollout? This watch party wasn’t a first. The lucrative franchise was approaching its 10th anniversary and was one of EA Sports’ strongest intellectual properties, right behind Madden and FIFA.
A yearly Q4 release made the game a holiday shopping favorite and a dorm-room staple. By 2013, the franchise had racked up $771 million in sales. But exactly what was so moving about a golf video game? Games that now occupy the bottom of resale bargain bins and are throwaways at garage sales. The revered series is an oft-overlooked extension of Tigermania, fading further into obscurity with later missteps by EA that led the series to fall out of favor and for Tiger to part ways in 2013.
Now, EA’s biggest rival, publishing titan 2K (NBA 2K, WWE 2K), has lured Tiger back into the video game arena with a multiyear contract for his likeness, a partnership that began in 2021. He’s the cover athlete for the newly released PGA Tour 2K23. With EA’s offering delayed until next spring, the takeover appears imminent. Or is it? The very things that brought golf video games into favor are back—and Tiger’s impact figures to be much greater than ever.
The 1990s were a period of prosperity for the video-game industry. Nintendo, Sega and…
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