Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Online built with UnityJune 30th, 2009 by Ben
About a month ago, EA Sports announced that it was foregoing a PC version of Tiger Woods Golf this year in favor of a full-featured, browser-based game, Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online. There are more details on the Tiger Woods PGA Tour blog.
Why is this a big deal? EA is using Unity as the front-end engine for the game! Not only is this a huge deal for the good folks at Unity Technologies — since there are likely to be ridiculous numbers of people playing this game — it’s potentially a giant leap for browser-based gaming.
Browser-based gaming has historically been dominated by Flash and Shockwave games of the casual variety. Quake Live and Cartoon Network’s Fusion Fall (which also uses Unity) brought us a browser-based MMO, but I don’t know of many more large-scale, 3D games that operate within a web browser.
According to EA, Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online was born when the company realized that sales of the PC version of Tiger Woods Golf were lagging and that they could reach potentially millions more people by making the game web-based. My guess is they also realized Unity would give them a way to present a graphically rich game within a browser. It also means no more platform compatibility issues, thanks to the Unity web player plugin.
It’s not clear yet how EA is going to make money from the game. My guess is it will be subscription-based, which may cause a lot of gamers to balk. They might pay anyway, though, if the game is regularly updated and enhanced. Other possibilities include an ad-supported model or a one-time fee to play. The one-time fee option seems unlikely to me, considering that EA has left off any sort of numerical identifier like “10″ or “09.”
The cynic in me thinks the people at EA may be saying, “Hey, most folks pay for a new Tiger Woods game every year anyway, so charging a subscription fee for TW PGA Tour Online is the same thing, right?”
I have signed up for the beta test of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, so we’ll see if my name gets called (EA, I would be a great beta tester, I promise!). I’ll report back if I can. Nevertheless, if this game catches on, not only could EA start releasing more big-budget browser games, other major developers might jump on the bandwagon.
Who knows, in a few years, we might be looking at web browsers as a primary way to play on the PC.