For the first time, EA Sports is letting fans decide for who will appear alongside Tiger Woods on the cover of Tiger Woods PGA Tour '13.
Starting Monday, fans can go to facebook.com/TigerWoodsPGATOUR and vote for their favorite players in both an American bracket and a European bracket as they go head-to-head in virtual matches. The winner of the eight-man American bracket will be featured with Woods on the next version of the game sold in the United States; the European winner will appear with Woods on the European version. The winners will be announced on Facebook Oct. 24, and both versions will be available starting in March 2012.
"Community-driven features and getting the fans involved in our game has always been paramount to the development of the game," said Craig Evans, EA Sports' marketing director. "We thought, 'How can we get fans involved in our marketing?' Then we decided that one way was to allow them to help us pick out the guys who are going to join Tiger on the cover."
The 16 players were chosen based on a combination of FedEx Cup points, Race For Dubai rankings, Official World Golf Rankings and something EA Sports calls "Fandom." That last factor takes into account a player's popularity on Twitter, Facebook and the traffic on his personal Web site.
"We wanted to create really interesting matchups," Evans said. "We think in the second and third rounds there are going to be some really interesting stories."
For example, if Luke Donald gets past Ross Fisher, and Ian Poulter defeats Paul Casey, would fans pick the world's No. 1 player over the golfer with more social-media muscle?
The one player guaranteed a spot on the box is Tiger. While Tiger's world ranking has fallen out of the top 50 and his reputation has taken a beating over the past two years, sales of Tiger Woods PGA Tour video games have been great, according to Evans.
"Last year in particular was a real banner year for us," Evans said.
That's not surprising; in 2011 EA Sports released its first version of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise that included Augusta National.
"The trajectory has just been out of control," Evans said of sales for the 2012 game.
Evans added that another reason for strong sales is that EA Sports has developed the game for motion-control systems like the Nintendo Wii and the PlayStation Move. The new version of the game also will support Xbox 360 Connect.
Along with the two covers that depict Woods and the bracket winners, a special collector's edition of the game will feature Augusta National Golf Club on the cover. While all versions of Tiger Woods PGA Tour '13 will let gamers tee it up at the home of the Masters, the collector's edition includes five bonus courses and Augusta's tournament practice facility.