Bullseye, the classic 1980s-1990s darts-based U.K. game show, has been adapted into a video game and is now available on the Nintendo eShop. It was released shortly after all the events and presentations at E3 2021, where the Japanese company announced an exciting slew of games, including the latest Zelda sequel and a new Mario and Rabbids crossover, set for 2022. It is not the first game show to receive an adaptation of this kind. Deal or No Deal and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire had a couple of iterations each across different platforms, offering groups a chance to entertain themselves and test their brains. While a popular pastime and professional sport, Darts has struggled to craft a video game that attracts a notable audience and critical acclaim.
Since the very first video games, the digitisation of sports has been underway, with boxing, ice hockey, soccer, and gridiron football getting their own treatment. Field sports of this kind are, in general, the most prominent in both popular culture gaming sales, and studios prioritise them as such. Non-field sports have sometimes struggled to carve out their own space in the console and store-front PC gaming markets. One successful digitisation of a non-field sport is poker, which has found an eager audience in the online casino industry, which has managed to leverage its traditional gameplay – of tactics and actions – and develops its own variants, often focussing on speed-of-play. The upside of online poker is that its various versions mean it can be played in solo and group formats, making it a pretty sustainable game, as players can mix up what they’re doing.
Darts and other sports of this kind, when adapted into video games, tend to be viewed as mini-games or party games. They are not big-budget productions, so they do not usually find themselves at the top of console or PC charts. However, to make the most of the game, the controls, platform, and interactivity must be appropriate. Much like fishing and golf, playing darts is all about action and technique. While they are technical sports, which demand practice and skill, they are also highly accessible due to less emphasis being placed on physical capabilities. As such, the nature of the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con and its motion-control lends itself to an engaging adaptation of darts.
Bullseye isn’t strictly a video game. The original game show, there was a dart thrower and a non-dart throw who answered questions. A contestant would answer a question following dart throwers throw. Initially, the dart thrower might be throwing for a named category on the unique Bullsyeye dartboard. In the second round, dart throw threw for the highest score on a standard dartboard. If the non-dart thrower answers the question correct, they were awarded money to the value of the category. But the quirks and enthusiasm of Jim Bowen, the host, gave the show its renown and longevity. Some met a recent revival with great disappointment from the British public. As such, Bullseye video game, while capable of solo play, is best utilised in a multiplayer environment. It’s a party game, at its core. This isn’t a bad thing, of course. The game provides genuine value.
For darts fans looking for a video game that represents the competitive sport they so enjoy – though it’s a simple sport to enjoy non-digitally in the comfort of your own home – will have to wait a little longer before something comes up.