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Analyst:  Tiger Woods ' 'Catastrophic' Wii Decline May Point To Scandal Damage
Analyst: Tiger Woods' 'Catastrophic' Wii Decline May Point To Scandal Damage
July 19, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

July 19, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

In an environment of general software declines, Electronic Arts faces particular challenges with its Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise. First-month sales across all formats have plummeted 68 percent compared to the launch of last year's installment, and one analyst thinks the athlete's extracurricular activities might be causing harm to the games.

The golf game, which lends itself well to Wii's motion controls, has been one of the most successful third-party franchises yet on Nintendo's console. But since its June 8 launch, the multiplatform Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 saw an 86 percent decline on Wii that Cowen Group analyst Doug Creutz called "particularly catastrophic."

"Although this is probably due in part to the fact that last year's version shipped bundled with Nintendo's new Motion Plus 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 says of the athlete, who has struggled with his public image since details of several extramarital affairs surfaced.

At the beginning of the year, EA Sports boss Peter Moore said that sales of the franchise had actually risen between 2008 and 2009 even after the scandals began to break, and said "we’ve seen no negative impact on sales" from the events of Woods' personal life. EA has said numerous times it plans to stand by Woods.

According to Creutz, Tiger Woods isn't the only underperforming EA franchise; at 253,000 units sold, Skate 3 is also down 40 percent from the two month total for Skate 2, released in 2009, and Green Day: Rock Band sold a "paltry" 82,000 units across the three platforms on which it's launched.

Recent NPD results reveal the industry as a whole is facing software declines thanks to fewer strong releases, a more polarized market wherein only top ten titles see significant success, and the increasing shift to digital distribution, which impacts retail numbers on paper.

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Isaiah Taylor
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Wow, I mean...the summer and lack of strong releases for the Wii shouldn't be a surprise, but an 86% drop in sales? I hate to stereotype, but it does seem that the kind of household that would buy Tiger Woods on the Wii would be the same kind of family that would read the occasional US Weekly.

Jason Schwenn
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Well, a good part of this has to be the simple fact that they barely marketed the game, at least compared to say last year's edition, obviously due to the scandal. It barely seems like the game even came out..

Bart Stewart
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The last paragraph is probably the most important: retail numbers appear down generally as the video games business becomes more hit-driven and as retail statistics are increasingly less reflective of reality by failing to account for digital distribution sales (including online game subscriptions).

But even that apparent slump can't explain an 86% drop in sales for one game. If that's not because of the revelation that he's been a serial philanderer, either directly through people not wanting to reward bad behavior or indirectly through lack of advertising, then what's a more plausible explanation and what information supports that theory?

Finally, who is surprised that a Rock Band title focused on Green Day didn't sell all that well? If EA/Harmonix want a hit, clearly the Right Thing to do would be to release Weird Al Yankovic: Rock Band. I'd buy that, and I don't even own a Wii....

Lo Pan
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@Bart, only Duran Duran Rock Band can ensure a huge payday! :-)

Christopher Totten
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They'd have to add an accordion controller for that...which opens up possibilities for a They Might Be Giants version so sign me up!

I think it would be interesting to compare these results against other years as well, not just the year that the shiny new motion-plus enabled/included version premiered. I can see the scandal hurting sales with certain family oriented consumers though...

If only they had made the version of Tiger Woods '11 shown on South Park last year...

DanielThomas MacInnes
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I think the game industry is missing a crucial lesson about tiger Woods '11. The Nintendo Wii audience - the Expanded Audience - operates under a different set of values than traditional, "hardcore" gamers. They are a far more skeptical crowd, particularly when it comes to yearly sequels. Hardcore gamers have been conditioned over many years to accept sequels and franchise titles, even when this year's game is 95% identical to last year's version. This is most pronounced in EA's sports games.

Simply put, the Wii audience is very hostile to sequels and franchise games. This is doubly so for sequels that are seemingly identical to the original. Consider EA's Boom Blox, or Ubisoft's Shawn White Snowboarding, or Namco's We Cheer. Each was a hit game at retail. The publishers responded quickly with sequels that were nearly identical...and these sequels failed miserably. They tanked.

One critical question to ask with any sequel on store shelves: How is this different from the earlier game? Is this distinction immediately clear? Can I tell the difference?

More questions to ask: Is this sequel justified? Just because a title becomes a hit, you are not guaranteed an audience. The audience must demand a sequel. The market dictates the product; but the video game industry often works in the opposite direction. This may be successful with the core fans, but not the Expanded Audience. These are not the ones who will be camping outside Best Buy at midnight to buy your latest game.

One final question: What is the price? This is critical. I see Tiger Woods '11 on the shelves for $50. Last year's game, Tiger Woods '10, is now being sold for $20-$30. Why, exactly, should I buy the newer version? Am I really getting double the content in the newer game? I look at the game boxes and, honestly, cannot tell the difference. I think this year's Tiger Woods has mini golf. But was this feature demanded by the audience? Does the market demand this feature? Or is this merely an extra...Malibu Stacey with a new hat?

There are more areas to explore, but I'll keep this brief for now. The main selling point on the Nintendo Wii are the motion controls. That's what the Expanded Audience demands. Wii Sports and Wii Play promised a new world of motion control games. New experiences were promised, new ideas, and new games that would be accessible in the way the classic '80s arcade games were.

Tiger Woods '10 was a hit because of its Wii Motion Plus controls, which promised to deliver what Wii Sports hinted at. The precision and depth of the controls, and the ability to translate real-world skills into the game, produced a truly great experience and was rewarded by the market. And these values are also being played out in Ubisoft's Just Dance, which has become the first third-party Wii title to truly challenge Nintendo's supremacy.

In wrapping this up, these are the challenge that EA and all publishers on Wii must address. Tiger Woods '11 fails to address these issues. This is why the game has failed.

Andrew Swain
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I just think that the kind of audience who are buying the Wii version are the exact same audience who are not willing to buy Madden, NHL and NBA year after year. Families with a budget.

Think from their perspective, just looking at the box, can you REALLY tell a difference over last years version? Especially since last years came with motion plus.

The hardcore audience who buy it year after year will most likely buy it on 360 or ps3 for precise controls, online capabilities, and a better looking product overall.

Plus, if any of the Wii games I bought were an example, nearly everything I have bought on Wii that was not made or published by Nintendo was a huge disappointment ( with the exception of perhaps MLB power pros, No More Heroes and Trauma Center.) If someone who barely even touched last years copy, why would they even consider this years?

Not at least until it drops in price.

This just sounds like throwing excuses for a marketing mistake.

As for skate 3, I had been asking all of my friends who enjoyed the series what they thought of it. They all had the same response. They were tired of skate, with skate 2 or even just number 1 being enough. I found skate to be very tiring and while the experience was interesting, fun and different, it would not be something I would want to start over.

Rock Band, the same deal as skate. Nobody seems to care anymore. They have had enough of the same game. Personally, I don't even want to look at another Rock Band/Guitar Hero again. I also hate Green Day and I'm sure other people do too. With the variety on the online store now, is it really a surprise that people don't want an entire game dedicated to a single band? Plus people have been hearing about how cool Rock Band 3 will be. Why buy Green Day now, when I can buy the super cool Rock Band 3 soon with a full guitar and keyboard?

DanielThomas MacInnes
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"Not at least until it drops in price."

This needs to be shouted from the rooftops. This economy is a wreck and there's not enough money to go around. $50 is a premium price to pay for a video game, and for most titles (read: third party Wii), it's far too much.

Publishers should realize that most of our money will be going to Nintendo - Super Mario Bros, Wii Fit, and Mario Kart will continue to dominate, while Wii Party and Donkey Kong Country will become monster hits. There are too many $50 games that would be far better served at $30.

Jamie Mann
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An 86% drop is pretty impressive - though as per the article I think the explanation is probably a combination of Motion Plus distorting last year's sales figures, combined with the general damage which has been done to the Tiger Woods brand: with all of his other high-visibility media campaigns (advertising, tv appearances, etc) having juddered to a halt, the game doesn't have any free publicity to ride on.

Regarding Skate 3 - I'm not convinced that the Wii audience hates sequels per se: instead, I'd be inclined to suggest that the casual market tends to stick with the "good enough" philosophy: if a new game doesn't offer something significantly different (or a gimmick to give the appearance of change), they'll stick with what they've got. Nintendo's own sales seem to follow this trend, too: their bestsellers all involve hardware (Wii Sports/Wii, Wii Play/Wiimote, Mario Kart/plastic wheel, Wii Fit/Wii Fit board, Wii Sports Resort/Motion Plus, Link's Crossbow Training/crossbow) or are the first appearance of the IP on the Wii (SMB, Smash Bros, Mario/Sonic, Zelda, etc).

Then there's Green Day Rock Band: a game which features songs from only one band - and the majority of which are album fillers, so will only be known by dedicated GD fans. Throw in the backdrop of a recession and the fact that the music-game genre has been heavily saturated, and I doubt that even MTV/Harmonix are surprised at the results...

Adam Flutie
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Analysts are missing the boat if they think Tiger is the blame of the problem. Yearly sequels and the uselessness of having 3 of the same type of game are the problem. About every 3 or more years (usually a console cycle) I'll pick up the latest edition.

I'm about due for another baseball game. I haven't bought one since 2006... The only time I have bought back to back years of a sports title was MVP 2005 and MVP 2006... why? one was completely different as it used NCAA in 2006.

Back to Golf. I bought TW '09. The only reason I bought it was it went well with my cur gen system. I rented the Wii editions, found Motion control still disgusting... I'm still waiting for next gen to care about golf again.

Ian Uniacke
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I'm a big fan of Tiger 10. The reason I didn't buy Tiger 11 was that reviews said it's exactly the same game with minor tweaks. I'm not going to spend full price on that game...and I was really looking forward to it. In fact even after the reviews part of me still wanted to buy it because I loved last years so much, but I can't justify it. It has absolutely nothing to do With Tiger Woods, what a copout. You can't just shovel up the same game and expect me to buy it again. This was the exact same reason I didn't buy the second Shaun White game, but I am interested in Shaun White skateboarding because it's an original experience. Once developers realise this they will see more sales, imho.

Rock Band Wierd Al would be a day one purchase. :D

Jeremy Reaban
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Not all sports games really need yearly updates. Indeed, most are merely just roster updates, which is pretty pointless in many sports (Golf, UFC, Boxing, Bowling)

Fiore Iantosca
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This is excellent news actually and I'm excited about it.