The most consistent body within the Electronic Arts empire is EA Sports. For all the tumult that’s affected that company in recent years, it still relies on the annual releases of titles like Madden NFL and FIFA Soccer to keep it running. Since the 2010 cancellation of NBA Live, however, EA has shown that it’s slowly reconsidering the economics of its annual game release machine. Madden and FIFA are still coming every twelve months, but EA is going to give its consistently popular PGA Tour series starring Tiger Woods a hiatus next year.
A Sunday report from Kotaku’s Owen Good, citing sources with insider knowledge of the series’ production, said that Electronic Arts is not planning to release Tiger Woods PGA Tour 15. At first it appeared that EA would outsource the game’s development to an external studio rather than the teams at Tiburon, giving the internal studio two years to better take advantage of the new technology in the PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Next Xbox. That plan has apparently been halted, though.
A break from the annual production grind at EA Tiburon could have resulted in a dramatically improved golf video game. The biggest changes in PGA Tour 14 are features like the inclusion of the LGPA tour as well as the all-male PGA tour mode. In fact, all of EA’s sports series could benefit creatively by an extended period of time off.
Much as EA did when it cancelled the 2012 digital return of NBA Live though, EA seems to instead be reassessing how to use these games as economic engines. A packaged release every year for this series remains profitable – FIFA Soccer 13 handily broke the series’ sales record in 2012 – but it may not stay that way for long as players increasingly buy digital-only copies of the game. EA may be reimagining PGA Tour 15 as a persistent, service-based game rather than a standalone release.
Over the past five years, no company has more thoroughly embodied the economic instability of the video game industry as well as Electronic Arts. It remains one of the largest earning bodies in the gaming industry, pulling in as much as $1 billion per quarter, but it also considers that earning power a disappointment compared to its past. The last five years have seen it go from investing hundreds of millions in social gaming to abandoning most of its Facebook titles. It funded offbeat titles like Dead Space, and then transformed it into a vessel for microtransaction revenue and marketable co-op adventure. It has acquired studios, and closed far more. The EA Sports label and its titles have been a stable base to keep EA afloat through these years. Now that label and its games will have to evolve and change too. What may start with PGA Tour next year may well continue with Madden NFL, NCAA Football, and even FIFA Soccer after that.
EA has refused to comment on the future of Tiger Woods PGA Tour.