By Barry Janoff
March 16, 2015: In 1998, Electronic Arts' EA Sports division released the inaugural edition of Tiger Woods PGA Tour, a video game that rode the laurels of a man whom many arguably consider to be the greatest golfer of all time.
Following the public unveiling of Woods personal problems in 2009, when companies such as Kellogg's, AT&T, Gatorade, Gillette and Accenture severed ties with him, EA continued to support him and to feature Woods as the face of the PGA Tour franchise.
That relationship began to wane for the 2010 release of the video game's 2011 version when Woods for the first time shared the cover with then on-the-rise star Rory McIlroy.
For Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2012, released in 2011, Woods' image was entirely replaced with a generic photo taken at The Masters.
Woods was back on the cover for the 2012 version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2013, sharing the space with Rickie Fowler. In 2013, Woods shared the cover of the 2014 game with legend Arnold Palmer in what proved to be Woods' swan song with EA and the end of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour title.
EA and Tiger Woods ended their 15-year alliance in 2013, during which time Tiger Woods PGA Tour brought in more than $770 million for the gaming company, according to industry analysts.
At the time, EA's vice-president and general manager Daryl Holt commented, "EA Sports and Tiger Woods have made a mutual decision to end our partnership, which includes Tiger's named PGA Tour golf game. We've always been big fans of Tiger and we wish him continued success in all his future endeavors."
EA did not release a PGA Tour game in 2014 due in part to cutting ties with Woods and the company's strategy to reboot the game as well as the franchise.
EA has now brought the game back, putting McIlroy front and center as the cover athlete and namesake of ihe renamed Rory McIlroy PGA Tour.
The game featuring the four-time Major champion and top-ranked golfer, is scheduled for release in June 2015.
“I’m very proud and humbled to see my face and name on EA Sports Rory McIlroy PGA Tour,” McIlroy said in a statement. “This is a great honor, and something I couldn’t even dream of growing up playing the sport. I really hope people enjoy the game and I’m very glad I can be a part of it.”
The game will hit with multi-media marketing, "Golf Without Limits," including TV, print, Internet and social media.
McIlroy earns about $20 million from endorsements, according to industry analysts, from marketing deals that also include Nike Golf (which also supports Woods), Omega and Bose.
According to the videogaming company, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is the first EA Sports title to be built using the Frostbite engine, a new toolset that "allows the development team to create beautiful new environments, featuring the most detailed courses in franchise history."
Among other details, Frostbite also renders the entire course at once, eliminating load times between holes and allowing users to play their shot from almost any location., according to EA Sports.
“This is a great honor, and something I couldn’t even dream of growing up playing the sport. I really hope people enjoy the game.”
“Frostbite has allowed us to take this franchise to a whole new level,” Brent Nielsen, executive producer of EA Sports Rory McIlroy PGA Tour, said in a statement. “The new engine drastically improves all facets of the game, from core gameplay to opportunities for brand-new modes and features. We’re looking forward to sharing a lot of great news with our fans throughout the rest of the spring.”
The TV spot shows scenes from the game and follows McIllroy as he moves onto the golf course and then takes a swing that resembles fireworks to launch the game's rebirth. At the conclusion, the real McIlroy comes on and says, "I'm Rory McIlroy for EA Sports, and it's in the game," offering up the videogamer's mantra tag line. (See the full spot here.)
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour will be available for Xbox One from Microsoft and PlayStation4.