Electronic Arts' Tiger Woods PGA Tour has long been a key annual sports franchise for the publisher. Now, new box art reveals the upcoming 2012 edition, The Masters, won't feature Woods' likeness for the very first time -- despite EA's insistence that it's not trying to distance itself from the troubled golfer.
Woods will still appear on the PlayStation 3-exclusive collector's edition of the game, but the standard edition on all platforms instead show a Masters golf course, with its logo taking up most of the box. Even Woods' name is minimized, placed below the prominent logo.
During challenges for Woods' personal life, wherein he endured an ugly and very public infidelity scandal, EA said it had no intention of removing its brand association with him.
When it comes to Tiger's loss of the top-ranking spot EA CEO John Riccitiello said as recently as December that EA had "no plans" to distance itself so long as Tiger continued to win games.
EA Sports label head Peter Moore is clearly aiming to quell speculation that the new box art means this position has changed.
He told Eurogamer that toward the end of last season Tiger began to show signs of getting back into the groove, and that EA simply wants to focus on the Masters right now.
"If the insinuation is it's a reflection of EA Sports backing away from its relationship that goes back literally 13 years with Tiger, that's not the case whatsoever," Moore said.
"You shouldn't read anything into the fact that Tiger's not featured on the box art of that particular edition," said Moore.