This edition we look into the dark demise of the largest racing title in the history of gaming, Gran Turismo. Since its birth in 1997 (along with a demo release included in a PlayStation bundle at the end of 1996), the game reached its climax and then dove off into an abyss never to be heard of again -- from fans or foes alike.
For those not familiar with the series, Gran Turismo is a racing game simulator based off real cars meant to show the power of graphic and game engines through the unique use of realistic handling and feel while playing. More noted for its revolutionary graphics than actual gameplay, the series took off the day after release, reaching over 61,000,000 copies sold to this date. Secondary releases aside from the latest Prologue from Gran Turismo 5 seemed to be somewhat of a failure, although never taken into account due to the primary releases' success.
Gran Turismo 1.
Kazunori Yamauchi, the man behind the entire concept of the game initially, can be credited for the development process along with provided heavy influences regarding track and finer detail selection, having been one of the best Japanese professional SP8 class drivers to ever grace the track, racking up his own fair sum of trophies and medals. Despite the name seeming alien, he's better known nowadays as the CEO of Polyphony Digital, the developer of the Gran Turismo series. So what exactly happened to the games? No one can say for certain, but having been a fan and dedicated competitor at dozens of Gran Turismo LANs both domestically in the US as well as a few over in South Korea, I can speculate that the scene died out because it was itself -- that is, a simulator and not a competitive game meant to contain extreme replay value.
Gran Turismo 2. We're improving a bit. Just a bit...
The gameplay was crisp and smooth, arguably more than any other racing game out in the early 2000's era, but the racing got bland and grayscale quite quickly. In reply to this, Polyphony Digital released sequels to each game quite frequently for the first 3 games. This is where shit started to get blurry -- between the years of 1997 and 2001, 3 titles were released. After 2001, fans of the game had to wait a grueling 4 years before Gran Turismo 4 was finally released. Luckily for the developers, the game lived up to standards and once again held the title for most graphically-pleasing and realistic racing game, shunning away its main rivals Forza and Project Gotham.
Alright, now we can see Gran Turismo 3's improvement.
From 2007 forward, fans were drooling over Gran Turismo 5, having seen heard only rumours of the game's development through shady tweets and forum posts found strewn around the web. After the unveiling of the game at E3 and several Sony game conferences, fans were nothing short of falling out of their chairs wanting the next game to be released -- the previous wait of 4 years was just too much, and to quell their anxiety and anxiousness, Polyphony had to pull something out of their ass that would make everyone's jaw drop. What could it be, though? An innovation in graphics, possibly a new type of rendering or physics seen in-game? Here's the punchline: in 2010 after 5 1/2 years of waiting on edge for this game that was hyped up to be the best racing game of all-time, set out to blow away its predecessors and competitors, Yamauchi and his gang fell short. In fact, not even remotely close to the standard(s) they were held up to.
The result of 4 years development and a graphics engine rework.
The game was a complete and utter failure. Nearly 3,000,000 pre-orders made it the top spot on every racing game fans' wishlists for Christmas, but it was all just hype. Selling 2,000,000 less copies than the worst-selling game of the series (Gran Turismo 2, due to false accusations of license fraud during the pre-release era of the game), Gran Turismo 5 would go down in gaming history as one of the worst hyped up flops the racing game genre had ever seen.
For several years, the realm of racing games was under the spotlight. Project Gotham was making its leap from underground to mainstream, being featured many times on the G4 channel during gaming events they hosted, even making it to the WCG at one point in time. The future was bright, and finally one of the most mysterious genres in gaming was moving forward, but with Gran Turismo 5 and the added disappointment of Project Gotham Racing 4's flop in 2007 on the PlayStation's brother, the Xbox360, the scene crumbled. Need For Speed was dying out quickly, the old school racers like Pole Position and Colin McRae's intial series on the Dreamcast were dead. DiRT's community was smaller than HoN's is now, and the tournaments completely ceased by mid-2009, aside from the local shootouts at GameStops and other stores of the like. After the climax during Gran Turismo 4's era died down, Gran Turismo 5 was the last hope; now, a faded memory.
By GT5, the game was all graphics and dull gameplay.
Last effort attempts at reviving racing games including Polyphony Digital's massive push with local arcades supporting Gran Turismo games and the release of the Racing Cockpit set (essentially a racing wheel and racing seat connected to each other, much like we see in arcades) for home use, but none were successful. Looking back at the series, regardless of failed releases and hype beyond belief, it still holds one of the top spots of all-time across any platform for rankings, holding the title for both highest-selling PlayStation exclusive franchise along with Gran Turismo boasting one of the highest scoring racing games ever, a 95.05/100 on GameRankings.
Gran Turismo 6 is in the works, as stated by rumours earlier this past March sourcing out of Australia, but we shouldn't invest too much love into it until we see the finished product. GT5's disappointing sub-par graphics and shading techniques made many of us lose hope in the brand. With the first and only chance out the window for hardcore fans' loyalty to the brand before sticking solely to older releases, Yamauchi will need to provide shock and awe to turn the tables in his favor. My favorite? Gran Turismo 2, hands down. Expect heavy e-sports coverage, as we leave the nostalgia alone for a week or two.
For now, we sulk at the demise of Gran Turismo as we feel our nostalgic tears roll down our cheeks.