EA Sports teams with Augusta for ‘Tiger Woods 12’

Tiger Woods walks up to the 18th green during the 2010 Masters.

Tiger Woods walks up to the 18th green during the 2010 Masters.

87,600.

That’s the approximate number of man-hours it took to create the virtual version of Augusta National for Tiger Woods 12: The Masters, an EA Sports spokesman told Golfweek. It’s equivalent to 10 people working 24/7 for an entire year.

The only number that’s more impressive? Zero.

That’s the number of leaks that occurred in the three years since EA Sports and Augusta National Golf Club first discussed bringing the famous layout to the video-game realm.

Not even WikiLeaks got ahold of the information. It was golf’s best-kept secret since Ben Hogan’s.

EA Sports president Peter Moore was practically beaming when he said, “I am pleasantly surprised that we were able to keep it under wraps.” Moore said a non-disclosure agreement was part of the agreement between Augusta National and EA Sports.

Keeping the game secret required an effort “exponentially more secret” than any previous sports game, Nick Wlodyka, the executive producer of Tiger Woods 12: The Masters, told video-game blog Kotaku.com.

“It’s hard to believe we haven’t had a leak,” Wlodyka said.

Augusta National’s entrance into the virtual realm was made possible by a new laser-scanning technology that allowed Augusta National to be recreated with an unprecedented level of detail.

The new technology was one of the main reasons the club agreed to be featured in the game.

Wlodyka told Kotaku.com, “If you know the course, you’ll be able to point to a tree in the game and say, wow, that tree has exactly that many branches, and that’s the way it’s curved,” Wlodyka promised. “It’s difficult to appreciate, unless you’ve been there.”

That technology will be used on other golf courses in upcoming editions of the Tiger Woods franchise, Moore said.

Another surprise from Tuesday’s announcement? I thought Augusta National’s inclusion would easily make this year’s Tiger Woods video game EA Sports’ best-selling title. The Tiger games traditionally rank behind EA Sports’ Madden and FIFA franchises. 

Add the pent-up demand for a virtual Augusta National, and I thought Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters surely would surpass EA’s other sports games. At least this year.

I imagined 60-year-olds who’ve never even touched an Atari buying PlayStations just so they could play Amen Corner’s virtual edition. After all, golfers have been begging for Augusta National’s inclusion in a video game since the days of Atari.

But Moore laughed when I asked if he thought the Tiger game would be EA Sports’ top seller in 2011. It was a chilling reminder of golf’s place in the sports landscape. Even Augusta National couldn’t push golf past football and soccer.

“I would be pleasantly surprised if it did,” Moore said, “but I think the global scope of American football and soccer makes it challenging, quite frankly.”

Still, Augusta National’s move into the video-game realm is an admirable move. It’s another progressive move from an organization known best for its strict adherence to tradition.

Augusta National’s inclusion in a video game will help introduce golf to a younger audience. Some may bemoan the expanding influence of video games in our society, but it can’t be ignored. Video games make golf easy, quick and enjoyable for even beginners, three traits lost in the real-life version.

Augusta National will donate its share of the game’s revenue to the newly-created Masters Tournament Foundation, which will help Augusta National’s golf-development goals, including the trailblazing Asian Amateur.

The announcement provides a much-needed boost to the Tiger video game franchise, which suffered a steep drop-off in sales in light of Woods’ personal struggles. 

EA has continued to lessen Woods’ presence on the cover of the game. In 2011, Rory McIlroy became the first player to share the cover with Woods. One of Augusta National’s trademark yellow flags is featured prominently on the cover of this year’s game. The rest of the space is dominated by images of Augusta’s famed 12th and 13th holes. Woods, shown hitting a shot into the 12th, is barely noticeable with his back to the camera.

Moore said Woods’ diminishing appearance on the cover shouldn’t be construed as EA distancing itself from the troubled superstar.

Instead, it’s about highlighting the one video-game feature that can overshadow even Woods: a virtual tee time at Augusta National.

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