Phil Taylor on PDC Darts 2009
We recently had the pleasure of a few minutes with darts legend Phil "The Power" Taylor, who is in London to promote his PDC World Championship Darts 2009 game, the Wii version of which is the "best yet", according to the sport's undisputed hero - an adviser on the game, and face on the box.
The PDC games seem a recent phenomenon, but Taylor grins as he tells us about the basic darts games he played a part in, back in 1994, just two years after the PDC was formed in a bid to increase the sport's commercial clout (announcer Russ Bray is here with us too, cracking jokes about Taylor's in-game skills between bouts of laughter that would sound more at home in a Guy Ritchie movie). Back in the early 1990's the game "started small", Taylor telling us that the internet has changed everything, while the motion controls on the Wii are the perfect medium for the sport in videogame-form.
PDC 2009 includes a raft of multiplayer options, one of the features the team most wanted to include according to Taylor, while he seems genuinely proud of what the new title achieves, not just in terms of recreating the feeling of the game itself (he seems sincere in saying that he can't see how much closer to the real experience it could get), but also in terms of attracting younger people to darts. The PDC used to worry darts had a boozy, unappealing reputation, but these games are apparently a hit with youngsters and ladies in a way the pub-based sport is usually not.
As a world champion of more than a dozen titles, Taylor seems to enjoy the challenge of bringing darts to life in a new medium, while he grins as he tells tales of the sport's in-roads into new countries, joking about Port Vale shirt-wearing market traders in rural China, will also noting that Malaysia probably already has a potential world champion within its midst. The sport lacks funding abroad, however, and while Taylor tells us sheepishly how he nearly lost what was meant to be a fun promotional event in Malaysia, eventually winning through 6-5 in a final played on decrepit wooden boards, which was "as intense as a world championship final".
Taylor tells us that he has a ferocious competitive streak (unsurprising given his successes to date), and that the new Wii video game presents quite a challenge (we watch him battling with Bray during one amusing round), as even his grandson can give him a run for his money. Understandably, The Power is perhaps quick to assure that he doesn't see darts being replaced one day with a virtual interpretation of the game, however he admits that "only god knows" where interactive entertainment will go next; such have been the innovations in recent years.
Competitive granddad is rather taken with the Wii in general, and in addition to this "defininitive" darts game, he also enjoys the bowling, boxing, tennis and golf activities in Wii Sports - the Wii proving "good for warming-up". He also believes PDC might be a good educational game for kids to play, as it encourages youngsters to practice maths, as a natural part of the game itself. He reels off a few "dartboard"-style sums by of example, but then maths was never my strong point (neither was English - Ed).
Our interviewee admits that previous versions of PDC Darts were not perfect, but the motion-sensing and touch controls of the Wii and DS versions make a lot more sense, Taylor admitting that the latest motion-controlled iteration in particular is "very, very addictive", as well as being the most comprehensive darts title ever made. Taylor tells us that he ran a pub for eight years, but believes the game is vital for taking the sport out of this traditional setting, the sportsman describing the game as the perfect post-pub lads game.
Moving away from the game, we ask Taylor if the success of his PDC business interests (he expects to earn one to two million pounds this year, such is the clout of modern darts) has led him to consider management. He says it has, but that if he were to coach a youngster then he'd be a brutal Alex Ferguson-esque taskmasters. We certainly believe him; Taylor as a player has a habit of getting things his way, and the fact that we're hear talking to him about PDC Darts 2009 perhaps suggests that the game is now reaching a place where he feels happier to endorse it more wholeheartedly than in the past. Beyond his obvious enthusiasm for the game, he's also a jolly nice chap to have a chat with.
PDC World Championship Darts 2009 is out on Wii and DS in May 2009.