The latest title in the Gran Turismo Series is looking to legitimize motorsports for the e-sports world. With the release of the seventh title in the Gran Turismo series, Gran Turismo Sport has quickly become a controversial game. This controversy is a result of the “always online” aspect of the game, and the departure from the car-collecting arcade racing game that defined the Gran Turismo franchise until now. Admittedly, I too was wrought with confusion over what Gran Turismo Sport was supposed to be and why I paid for a title that offered me none of what made the Gran Turismo franchise great. That was until I realized what Polyphony Digital and Sony were trying to do with this latest iteration of their venerable series.
A Lesson in Gran Turismo Heritage
A bit of a history lesson is needed to understand the genesis of Gran Turismo Sport. Back in 1997, when Gran Turismo was released for the original PlayStation, the game came with the tag line “The Real Driving Simulator.” While Gran Turismo was far from an actual driving/racing simulator, the tag line was a clear manifesto for the racing series. By 2008 the Gran Turismo series was a verifiable hit and a staple in the video game industry. The series featured four full games on two generations of PlayStation and two Prologue titles – the latter, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue was the first Gran Turismo title to hit the PlayStation 3.
In 2008 the inaugural season of the TV series GT Academy hit the airwaves. This reality TV series was a partnership between Nissan and PlayStation and it focused on a virtual-to-reality racing contest where the best Gran Turismo players would compete for a chance to become a real race car driver. Basically, it was the ultimate Cinderella story for any gamer who ever had even the slightly hint of a dream of racing professionally. As of today the GT Academy has crowned twenty-two winners from different regions around the world.
The Natural Conclusion
These two facts are important to understand because it shows that, from the beginning, Polyphony wanted the Gran Turismo franchise to be more than just a video game. They wanted to create a real racing simulator for the PlayStation. Although technology may have kept Gran Turismo from becoming an authentic simulator, it did not keep the series from inspiring and eventually creating an avenue for gamers to become race car drivers. But the problem is that not every single Gran Turismo gamer wants to be a real race car driver, much like not every single CoD player wants to be in the military. The question to answer was how would Polyphony bring authentic racing to the PlayStation, while elevating the racing experience online to a point where more people could “go pro?”
The solution was Gran Turismo Sport. It’s clear that Gran Turismo Sport is not Gran Turismo 7 like most people – myself included – thought it was going to be. This game is actually an attempt to legitimize racing games and develop a class of top notch virtual console drivers, that will be able to finally elevate racing games into the main arena of e-sports. And it’s about time if you ask me.