During it’s E3 press conference, Electronic Arts unveiled the newest, Tiger Woods-less era of PGA Tour golf for console gaming. But much like the golf simulator, which touted more “extreme fantasy courses” tagged with the catchphrase, “Golf without limits,” EA Mobile’s latest golf effort aims to approach that “sweet spot” of gamer accessibility and true golf simulation.
Examiner had a hands-on with PGA Tour: King of the Course –– which launched during the expo on Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play marketplaces –– along with a sit down with EA senior designer Mike DeVault and senior product manager Ryan Simmons.
According to the two EA insiders, King of the Course launches with the hopes of appealing to that demographic of gamer that doesn’t necessarily follow golf closely while also piquing the interest of hardcore golf simulator fans.
“It’s totally a blend,” Simmons said. “It still has all the same professional courses and high-quality gameplay graphics, physics, etc. But it’s got this arcade infusion that just makes it really fun.”
The game is a mixture of a golf simulator –– with real life courses and PGA Tour professionals –– but with an arcade-like twist.
King of the Course sets up as a mini-challenged, progression style game in which players are challenged to complete four objectives per hole over the span of 18 holes on a course.
Players have a limited number of golf balls to achieve at least one star to advance onto the next challenge, which do repopulate over a certain period of time but can be purchased through microtransactions for those who wish not to wait.
The game comes loaded with five courses ready for play with more than 350 challenges right out of the gate, which include things like skipping golf balls across water or bouncing from trampoline to trampoline. The game also features a number of “boosts” that manipulate the flight of the ball in order to aid in overcoming each challenge.
But the noticeable difference in the mobile PGA Tour game is in its swing mechanic. Players basically swipe with how much power and accuracy they believe they need on the swing without also worrying about lies and club selection.
“Here you hit the shot and then you’re fully engaged the entire time, swiping, spinning, trying to get it into the bull’s-eye and whatnot,” Simmons said. “It make it way more fun and kind of just like a non-stop, fast paced experience for a casual person …”
DeVault said the development team thought this would turn off hardcore golf sim fans, who they thought would want that “five-iron versus six-iron decision making.”
But that was not the case.
“We did a lot of user testing on this game and we thought we wanted to figured out what hardcore golf fans thought too, and they loved it,” DeVault said. “We thought maybe they won’t like the challenges, but it was like the complete opposite.”
However, the game does appeal to that hardcore fan in its realism.
The game features five real life courses –– Pinehurst No. 2, TPC Sawgrass, St. Andrews, TPC Scottsdale, and Banff Springs –– along with boss battles at the end of each course with PGA pros, including Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner and Dustin Johnson.
That unique blend comes from EA looking back on two and a half decades of PGA Tour –– finding what works and what doesn’t.
After 25 years, the franchise took a yearlong hiatus to reboot and refresh, coming back with a new approach to PGA Tour.
“In this past year we really dug deep and looked into the history of our business –– what stuff worked, what stuff didn’t, and where we had opportunities,” Simmons said.
EA also did a large market research study about the franchise with the aim of finding out how gamers felt about the franchise, and Simmons said that people want “real courses” and realistic golf situations to play to that need for simulation, but also want a blend of arcade-style experiences.
“What really drives the needle for golf is that combination, the arcade and the real life stuff, so that both the core golf fan and the casual golf fan can play together and have a really enjoyable experience,” Simmons said.