There are two kinds of changes that come to EA Sports’ annual simulators: Huge and miniscule. Either entirely new mechanics are introduced to the game fundamentally altering the way it plays as with NHL 08 or tiny changes to physics and roster updates tweak the game only barely from past entries as with Madden NFL 10. Either very, very subtle or not even vaguely subtle: That’s the EA way. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 is a strange exception to the rule, though. It brings a subtle but significant change to EA Sports. There are women in PGA Tour 14.
EA announced on Tuesday a list of features included in the new PGA Tour. The bullet points touted first in the press release are typical for any sports games, declaring a new mode where you face of against the greats of the past. In this case it’s golfers like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. More notable is the point made halfway through the list is that PGA Tour 14 will feature the LPGA in its tour mode for the first time. It’s not the first time lady golfers have been available, but it is the first time that the actual LGPA tour has been part of one of the game’s key sim modes.
“Female created golfers can now compete on the LGPA and attempt to become a major champion,” reads the release, “There are five playable LGPA golfers including 2012 Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis.”
Gender equality in a sports title may seem like a small deal, but it’s significant for the future of EA’s sports titles. It’s unlikely that EA Tiburon will let you create a female player in Madden NFL 2014, but the shift could be significant in regards to its best-selling series, FIFA.
FIFA players have been calling for women’s soccer to be included in FIFA for some time now. A petition started by gamer Fernanda Shabarum on Change.org calling on EA to add female players was actually spotted and acknowledged by the company this past summer. FIFA executive producer David Rutter actually met with Shabarum to discuss the series saying it was “going to happen at some point.”
“Every year, a vast quantity of suggestions for inclusion comes into our studio,” Rutter told Kotaku in August, “We have to whittle it down to what we can make in one year. It’s a case of prioritizing what needs to be done, and then we do our best to knock it out of the park in whatever we’re doing. But [women in FIFA] is always something considered in some shape or form, and it’s not to say it won’t ever happen.”
Maybe less investment in alternative forms of monetization like Ultimate Team and more investment in representing a huge part of your audience next year, EA. PGA is a good start.