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Riccitiello: EA Giving Tiger 'Benefit Of The Doubt', But Wins Needed

Tiger Woods has long been the face of Electronic Arts' popular PGA Tour video games and the publisher has stuck by the athlete through scandal -- but the publisher's patience for Woods' continued losing streak isn't infinite.
Golfer Tiger Woods has long been the face of Electronic Arts' popular PGA Tour video games and the publisher has stuck by the athlete through scandal -- but the publisher's patience for Woods' continued losing streak isn't infinite. While speaking at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York, EA CEO John Riccitiello was careful to emphasize that he didn't intend a "threat" when he said he hoped the pro golfer could rank number one once again. "We're with him because he has the promise of being the world's best golfer," Riccitiello said. "We have no plans to move away from him, but it's a business relationship on the basis of we make the best golf game and he's the best golfer." "Both of those things need to be true in the long run for the partnership to make sense," added the CEO. EA plans to release Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2012 next year, as of now. EA announced PGA Tour Golf Challenge for Facebook in mid-November, marking the first golf title in quite some time the publisher has launched without Woods' name attached. The pro golfer has partnered with EA for 11 years, and nearly all of EA Sports' golf titles have carried his name in that time. But the absence of Woods' name in the Facebook title is likely to reflect a diversification in the company's brand and its intent to differentiate itself from EA's other free to play online golf title, Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online. "We're broadening the appeal of our golf business," asserts Riccitiello. Whether due to harm from his public infidelity scandal or from the likely-related decline in his performance on the green, EA's golf titles bearing Tiger Woods' name and likeness, typically strong sellers for EA Sports, have seen some challenges this year. This year, first-month sales of Tiger Woods PGA Tour fell 68 percent across all platforms compared to last year's edition. Ultimately EA's in no hurry to detach from the athlete: "[Woods] sort of stuck with us for a very long time and we made great business together," Riccitiello said, "and we're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for a period of time."

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