We’re all in this together – except for when we’re not
How often do you see or hear people who play videogames described collectively as ‘gamers’? It’s something we do within these pages, but recently we’ve become particularly conscious of it, and we’re going to try to stop. A great many years ago, when videogames were cut from a much narrower piece of cloth, it made some kind of sense, but today, given the astonishing amount of gametypes that exist, on so many devices, it doesn’t add up.
Except, sometimes, in the world of Nintendo, which created a platform that put into the same pot the ten-year-old Pokémon-collecting schoolgirl and the 31-year-old tournament Street Fighter IV player, along with millions more who’d simply ignored videogames until the arrival of Wii Sports. With Wii, it delivered the most accessible videogame console of all time and went on to reap the attendant rewards. But then it created a successor in Wii U that was the most confused, confusing console ever designed – at least to people who understood videogames to be all about waving things in front of a television. (It’s no coincidence that today’s market-leading handheld console, 3DS, retained the fundamental configuration of its market-leading predecessor.)
So when we see that Wii U is in desperate trouble, with Nintendo forecasting that in FY2014 it will ship 2.8m consoles against a prior estimate of 9m – this only 14 months into the system’s life – perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised. But at the same time, how can Nintendo be criticised for taking risks? Without risks, its biggest successes of the past decade would not exist. There will need to be more, not fewer, if the company is to turn things around.
And so to our cover game, Elite: Dangerous, a title whose appeal lies squarely with the old-fashioned category of the ‘gamer’, continuing a legacy that was born in the home computing boom of the 1980s. Best played with a joystick-and-throttle controller setup and enhanced to sensational effect via a virtual reality headset, it is in many ways the antithesis of swing-this-to-bowl-theball play. Naturally, for the industry to flourish, we need all game varieties to exist, but this month we showcase a formidable example in the classic mould.