Electronic Arts was one of the few major brands not to run from Tiger Woods during the golfer's embarrassingly public sex scandal this winter, but that loyalty hasn't paid off, frets one analyst.
"We are concerned that Woods' scandal woes may have permanently damaged the sales potential of what we believe to be EA's third most important sports franchise, behind Madden and FIFA," wrote Doug Creutz of the Cowen Group. Creutz cited figures showing a 66 percent drop in sales on all platforms and nearly 86 percent slide in the game's sales on the Wii, alarming considering it lends itself well to motion control and has been a strong third-party title on that console otherwise.
The inclusion of Wii MotionPlus support in last year's title might have boosted sales figures and made the gap more glaring, but still, the falloff is not good news to anyone.
Electronic Arts' most recent statements on Woods came in January, and said simply that they considered the scandal to be a personal matter for Woods, and that even at the nadir of his crisis they hadn't seen much of an effect on game sales. True, but the latest title wasn't coming out then.
This year, Woods played a bit more of a subdued role in marketing, and also shared the cover of the game for the first time ever. It raised eyebrows, but at least there was a plausible reason - the inclusion of Ryder Cup team play, which explained the appearance of Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the cover and Woods with practically no speaking lines, instead playing straight man to some sight gags in video advertisements, one of them starring football coach Mike Ditka.
EA Sports can't distance itself much further from Woods without either altering the game or severing ties. At the same time, unless he pulls off a miracle and wins the PGA Championship, there just won't be any superstar performances to hitch the game to - just Tiger Woods, the former No. 1 golfer in the world who had an atrocious year following a humiliating scandal.