Tiger Woods begins his comeback at The Masters this week, and the browser-based game bearing his name transitioned from beta to full release today. EA Sports' boss hit the television to talk about why EA never left the scandal-wracked golfer.
"We are a very different company, in regards to our relationship with Tiger, than other sponsors that have cut bait," Peter Moore told CNBC's "Power Lunch" earlier today. "He's in the game. He's not an arm's length endorser."
Moore explained that Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online has been in development for about 18 months, most of that preceding a car crash incident in late November that ripped the lid off his marital infidelities. "We've been very clear in our support of Tiger Woods the golfer," Moore emphasized. "We have a very strong relationship. He's a gamer himself, and instrumental himself in helping us develop this game over the past 15 years."
Moore at first said Electronic Arts' board had zero questions about continuing its relationship with Woods - "None whatsoever." Pressed on the point, though, he acknowledged that "obviously there are questions," asked in such circumstances. "But then when you look at the facts and what we stand for, it's the abil to deliver a world-class simulation of golf, around the world, and while we're supportive of Tiger in the challenges he's gone through in personal life, this is about simulating the game of golf, and we've been very, very clear it's about supporting Tiger the golfer."
Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online went public with an open beta in January. Since then, Moore said, virtual golfers have logged more than two million rounds played, with 800,000 unique visitors in the last month alone. "It's not your your typical core gamer," Moore said. "It's a 40-year-old male, typically, who typically wouldn't buy our core game on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3."
The game will make money via a tiered subscription options and microtransactions. The console game's release is still on target for June, on the 360, PS3 and Wii.
"Certainly we think a strong showing [at The Masters] will help [sales], but it's not a determining factor," Moore said. "Tiger has had some of the personal issues in his life over the past month and we've seen no dropoff."
The question nobody asked is, did EA Sports deliberately time its debut of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online for The Masters and if so, did it make that decision before or after Woods' picked that tournament for his return? If before, it's a ballsy bet that paid off nicely.
Then again, the first Major of the year is when plenty of folks are thinking about golf, regardless of who's playing in the tournament.
Here's the full video of Moore's appearance: