We’re all in this to­gether – ex­cept for when we’re not

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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.

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