2k Sports and EA Sports are duking it out in the golf gaming space
By Gerald Hopkins
Will 2k beat EA Sports at its own game… again?
Tiger Woods is synonymous with a lot of different things, both good and bad. One thing tied to his name is the Tiger Woods golf video game series, created by EA Sports, and gave people a chance to play on some of the most prestigious golf courses, either as themselves and or some of the biggest names of the biggest stars on the PGA Tour. Now, EA Sports in 2021 is launching a new golf game, with their competitor 2k Sports having Tiger Woods signed on as a part of their game.
Golf video games have a weird history that leads us back to 1978. The oldest golf video game was Computer Golf! developed by Manganov, and looks like the pong version of golf. Here is a Youtube clip from Youtube channel vghchannel of Computer Golf!.
EA sports jumped into golf games in 1990 with PGA Tour Golf, the game was made for consoles like Sega Genesis, SNES, and the Macintosh computer. This game featured three real golf courses TPC Sawgrass, PGA West Stadium, and TPC Avenel and also featured one fictional course, Sterling Shores. Here is some gameplay from Youtube channel Squakenet, and it’s really something to watch.
As time went on, EA Sports released games under the PGA Golf Tour title until 1998, when they decided to partner with an up-incoming star in the world of golf, who seemed to have a signature red polo he would wear on Sunday’s, and his name was Tiger Woods. Then from 1998 to 2012, the Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf games were the cream of the crop when it came to golf video games. Each year the game came out with new courses, golf clubs from different brands, and new modes to play.
Other golf games took share in the market, but nothing really came close to the Tiger Woods series, because it was the best game in the market for a realistic golf experience. The games had the most courses, it was one of the few games licensed by the PGA, and also had other pros that you could play in games. The series also had a career mode, which gave players a chance to create themselves and compete against some of the most renowned golfers in the world. At one point the series even had a license from Augusta National to have the Masters tournament in game, and to this day it is the only golf series to have that course and tournament in one of their games.
But as issues for Tiger started both professionally and personally, EA Sports decided to take a new direction, and took a year hiatus to make a new game for next generation consoles, and to put a new golfer at the forefront of the series. That golfer was up-incoming PGA Tour player Rory McIlroy, and in 2014 EA Sports released Rory Mcllroy PGA Tour. This turned out to be the last game EA Sports made in golf consoles games, and left the market open for new opportunities. The game had okay but not great reviews, and the staying power of Rory Mcllroy started to fade as he struggled professionally.
One group that tried to take the spot was HB Studios with the first edition of The Golf Club in 2014. HB Studios had worked with EA Sports in the past, and took on the challenge when EA Sports decided to walk away from the game. Yet, the market had been shot with the departure of EA Sports and the game had average ratings.
But HB Studios didn’t quit, and released The Golf Club 2 in 2017 under Maximum Games, and in 2018 they published The Golf Club 2019 featuring PGA Tour with under 2k. Then in March of 2020 2k acquired HB Studios, and most recently they published in 2020 PGA Tour 2k21. The most recent game saw 2 million people buy it on launch week, a feat that Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick called a “fantastic result.”
Then on March 16th Tiger Woods signed an exclusive deal with 2k to be a part of their video game. This happened a month after Tiger Woods was in a near-fatal car crash, and his role in the game is still unknown. Woods will most likely make his first appearance in PGA Tour 2k22, but there is nothing official on that yet.
This move signified a shift in the landscape of golf video games, and with the resurgence of popularity that 2 saw, EA Sports has decided to get back into the action. On March 29th, EA Sports announced a new golf game, and one that will exclusively feature the Masters tournament and the course they play on, Augusta National. This news means we will most likely see two PGA Tour sponsored games this year.
This is not the first time we have seen EA Sports and 2k compete in a sports game market. The most prominent example of this is the NBA Live Series and NBA2k series. For most of the early 2000’s NBA Live dominated the space, but both released games. This shifted in the 2010’s, especially at the announcement and implementation of the career mode in NBA 2k10. Then EA Sports cancelled releases of NBA Live 12 and NBA Live 13, and have tried to make returns in the NBA gaming market with NBA Live 14-16 and underperformed compared to 2k, and any other releases have seen lesser popularity as well. For most NBA gamers, the first game that comes to mind and is more popular is 2k, and now 2k is trying to do that for golf games.
Yet, competition is what both of these companies need, and what golf gamers deserve. One major complaint from the NBA 2k community is the fact that there is not a lot of competition, and NBA 2k uses that to sell more microtransactions to capitalize on profit. If EA and 2k put out good golf games, the goal won’t be profit based, but instead competition based, and we can see that already. On one hand 2k has rights to the world’s most popular golfer, and on the other hand EA Sports has exclusive access to the sport’s most visible and popular tournament in golf. What will now separate them will be gameplay, visuals, and more, which is something the space needs to bring it back to relevance.
The 2022 versions of both PGA Golf 2k22 and EA Sports PGA Golf draws comparison to the basketball gaming scene, which could lead to some of the best golf games we have seen in some time. This scene gives 2k a chance to claim another game as their territory, or EA Sports a chance to get even out some of the losses they took from not producing multiple basketball games during the 2010’s. Either way, the chance at the general public to get some fantastic golf video games in the coming years is a prospect any golf gamer should be more than excited about.