Sales of Woods video game take a hit

Companies wondering whether they made a mistake by dumping Tiger Woods as their spokesman in the wake of his highly publicized sex scandal may have their answer.

Electronic Arts’ decision to keep Tiger Woods as the face of its golf video game franchise may not have paid off as the company had hoped. Despite generally positive reviews, sales of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 are down 68 percent in the United States from the same time last year, according sales figures from market research group NPD.

EA Sports scored a coup last year with the Nintendo Wii version of the game when Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 was one of the highest selling titles for the console that year. More than 2.3 million total copies of the game were sold last year, 850,000 of which were for the Wii.

Doug Creutz, an analyst for investment group Cowan & Company, released a research note about the franchise, calling the 86 percent decline in Wii sales of PGA Tour 11 "particularly catastrophic."

"Although this is probably due in part to the fact that last year’s version shipped bundled with Nintendo’s new MotionPlus controller, 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," Creutz said.

While companies like Gatorade and Accenture were busy dumping Woods as their spokesman in the wake of the sex scandal that led Woods to take a four-month hiatus from the Tour, EA stuck with him and featured him on the cover as it had each year since 1999.

This year’s game marked the first time Woods did not appear alone on the cover. He’s joined by 21-year-old Tour phenom Rory McIlroy.

Katherine Coulthart, a publicist for EA Sports who specifically works on the Tiger Woods franchise, told in an e-mail, “There are a number of factors that have contributed (to the decline in sales), but we believe the largest contributors are the slowing of the overall Wii software market and Tiger’s performance on the course.”

She said EA Sports partnered with Woods because he’s a great athlete — a fact that hasn’t changed.

“He has not won a tournament in 2010,” Coulthart said. “However, Tiger is well positioned to take advantage of a longer than normal sales cycle with the Sony Move controller coming out in September as well as the interest in the upcoming Ryder Cup — which is a key feature in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11.”

The Sony Move software will allow Playstation 3 gamers to play the game in a similar method to the Wii that simulates a golf swing.

Woods is currently ranked seventh in the bid for the eight automatic spots for the Ryder Cup standings.