Tiger Woods to Star in New Golf Videogames After Long Absence

Tiger Woods has signed an exclusive multiyear deal with Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. TTWO 1.03% to feature his name and likeness in future golf videogames.

The videogame publisher has also agreed to acquire the small studio that makes its PGA Golf 2K series; and Mr. Woods, one the most successful golfers of all time, will help with the development process.

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Take-Two announced the deals Tuesday, and they come less than a month after Mr. Woods was seriously injured in a car accident, raising the question of whether he can rehabilitate and resume his pro golf career. Take-Two said the agreements were already in the works before the incident and are unrelated.

Mr. Woods, 45 years old, was previously the face of Electronic Arts Inc.’s EA 1.04% PGA Tour videogame series between 1998 and 2013. “I am looking forward to making my return to the videogame landscape,” he said in a statement. Mr. Woods will also serve as an adviser to Take-Two’s 2K studio.

Financial terms for the two deals and the length of Mr. Woods’ contract with Take-Two weren’t disclosed. The acquisition of closely held HB Studios Multimedia Ltd. is expected to be completed in the current quarter. The Lunenburg, Canada-based studio will be folded into Take-Two’s 2K unit, the company said.

New York-based Take-Two is known for its Grand Theft Auto, NBA 2K and other hit franchises. Like many game publishers, it has benefited greatly over the past year from pandemic-fueled demand for at-home entertainment.

The first installment of PGA Tour 2K launched in August and has since sold nearly two million units, Take-Two said. It is among only a handful of golf games for consoles and computers that have been released by a large publisher in recent years.

Take-Two hasn’t revealed a launch date for the next installment, which is expected to be the company’s first starring Mr. Woods.

‘PGA Tour 2K21’ launched in August and has since sold nearly two million units.

Photo: Business Wire

Sports videogames in general have been popular for decades and are counted among the industry’s best selling franchises. Electronic Arts is the biggest publisher in the category with its FIFA and Madden NFL franchises, though Take-Two has lately been growing its sports portfolio and has emerged as a leader in basketball with NBA 2K.

Sports is “an area of enormous focus” for Take-Two, Chief Executive Strauss Zelnick said in an interview. Its strategy is “to find unserved niches and then make the very best title anyone’s ever seen within that niche,” he said. “That is our style.”

Take-Two also makes wrestling games through a partnership with World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. WWE -0.42% and last year said it plans to produce multiple football games for the first time in more than 15 years after striking an agreement with the National Football League.

To move into golf, Take-Two’s 2K studio partnered in 2018 with HB Studios, which signed a deal that same year with PGA Tour, the organizer of the top professional golf competitions in North America, to make games based on its courses and branding. HB Studios first made a game called “The Golf Club 2019 Featuring PGA Tour” and it is now focused on the PGA Tour 2K series, which simulates real PGA Tour matches.

A spokesman for PGA Tour said the pro golfers who compete in its events are in control of their own marketing rights and require separate deals with third parties interested in partnerships.

For several years, Mr. Woods was featured in golf games from Take-Two rival EA until the partnership ended in 2013. A spokesman for EA said the company continues to have a strong relationship with the PGA Tour even though it hasn’t produced a new golf game since 2015 when it featured golfer Rory McIlroy.

Golf ranked as the sixth top-selling sport in U.S. videogame sales over the past decade, according to NPD Group. Football, basketball and soccer held the top three spots, respectively, the market-research firm said. Golf games accounted for eight of the top 100 most downloaded mobile sports titles world-wide last year across the major app stores, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower Inc.

Golf legend Tiger Woods suffered multiple leg injuries in a rollover traffic accident near Los Angeles. He was transported to a local hospital after being extricated from the wreck by firefighters and paramedics. Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Zuma Press (Video from 2/23/21)

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at sarah.needleman@wsj.com

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