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Tiger Woods returns to links in new online game

By Sam Sheringham, for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tiger Woods remains big draw for the gaming community despite his public disgrace
  • EA Sports have released Tiger Woods Online, a free browser-based golf game
  • Golf games are a huge hit with office workers who compete against colleagues at their desks
  • Sales of traditional console-based games are in decline according to industry analysts

London, England (CNN) -- Sponsors have shunned him and his popularity is at an all-time low, but Tiger Woods is fronting an online craze that is attracting office workers in droves.

The world's most recognizable sportsman has made a fortune from his endorsement of traditional console-based PGA Tour golf games, licensed by EA Sports, with sales in the United States alone passing half a billion dollars last year, according to industry analysts NPD Group.

Impressive statistics, but sales are in general decline while Internet browser-based games are showing an exponential growth.

So unlike other companies, EA Sports decided to stick with Woods and also launch Tiger Woods Online, the latest and most high-profile of a swarm of of browser-based golf games.

According to the game's executive producer, Michael Taramykin, EA is determined to tap into the growing market for golf games that can be played with colleagues right at your desk.

"Browser-based gaming is a very convenient way of anyone to play at any time and from any place," Taramykin told CNN.

Video: Tiger Woods online game
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RELATED TOPICS
  • Video Games
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"Interestingly enough we are noticing that our peak play times are between 12 and one during the day. Add to that the fact that 75 per cent of our audience is over 34, and it sure does sound like a little office golfing to me."

There are literally hundreds of golf games out there, ranging from basic mini-golf simulations like Miniputt to high-tech interfaces like World Golf Tour, which allows users to tests their skills on courses like Pebble Beach and St Andrews and compete against other players online.

Tiger Woods Online, which is currently free to play ahead of a subscription rollout later in the year, is firmly in the high-tech camp and has received flattering reviews.

Golfweek magazine's Eric Soderstrom described it as being "great for co-workers if you don't want to have a company next year."

Online golf is just part of a global phenomenon in which gamers are abandoning traditional consoles in favor of playing on the Internet.

Germans spent $686 million playing online games in 2009, according to a survey by gamesindustry.com. British gamers forked out $437 million, while the French spent $343 million.

Computer games journalist Dan Howdle says golf games are at the forefront of the trend because they offer something different.

Great for co-workers if you don't want to have a company next year
--Review of Tiger Woods Online golf

"They are the antithesis of every other game on line," Howdle, games editor of newgamer.com, told CNN.

"Most online games you can play with other people are places where people generally shout at each other and shoot each other in the head 24/7. They rely on fast reactions, a lot of skills. To be any good you have to be a gamer.

"Golf games have a slower, measured pace, you play with a different type of person. Anything that happens is down to your own skill. It's just a much more pleasant and relaxed environment in which to play."

Woods remains in a self-imposed exile from tournament golf, with no sign he will return anytime soon to add to his tally of 14 Grand Slam titles.

But for now his image lives on in the virtual world of gaming, where he is still proving to be a big draw.