The marketing collaboration between Sony and Nissan is not new; Nissan has been working with Sony Computer Entertainment for years. The relationship started with Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo franchise, where Nissan vehicles like the 370Z are featured. Three years ago, Nissan partnered with Sony to launch the Nissan GT Academy, a first-ever convergence of virtual driving and real racing. That collaboration continues to this day and includes a reality show that airs on Spike. Over 400,000 PS3 gamers competed for a chance to become a race car driver in this year’s GT Academy.
Nissan is also working with Sony and Polyphony Digital to design a concept car exclusively for Gran Turismo 6 as DLC. It’s part of an initiative that spans 20 manufacturers that will result in new supercars for GT6 gamers over the next year. Jon Brancheau, vice president of Nissan Marketing, talks about the role video games play in driving new customers to their showrooms in this exclusive interview from the LA Auto Show.
The [a]list daily: What role do video games play today for Nissan?
Jon Brancheau: Video games are huge for the young male target audience for us. We’ve been in these games for years as a result of the performance heritage of the Nissan brand, so for Nissan it’s really a pretty natural fit for us to be integrated into games like Gran Turismo.
The [a]list daily: Gran Turismo is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. How have you seen gaming technology evolve over that time?
Jon Brancheau: It’s a bit amazing and you can see the visuals in the games we have at our booth. It feels like you’re on the track when you’re driving. It’s a wild experience.
The [a]list daily: How does Nissan work with Sony to get their cars into GT6?
Jon Brancheau: There’s been a lot of collaborative work that’s done between even our engineering teams getting the appropriate CAD data, so that Sony can make it as real-life as possible in this experience. There’s massive collaboration, as you would expect. It’s highly technical, obviously.
The [a]list daily: What does it say about the realism of Gran Turismo that GT Academy has created real race drivers that are doing well in competitions?
Jon Brancheau: The game does prepare to become a real driver you because it’s so realistic for racing. Obviously, there are a lot of other skills that are required to be an actual race car driver and you’ve got to be fit. We put them through a bit of a boot camp at Silverstone to make sure we know which guys are fit. But in the end they’re racing to determine who is the best driver. We’ll take those drivers and bring them on to the Nissan team and they’ll be racing the following year.
The [a]list daily: What role do video games play today as a platform to debut new vehicles?
Jon Brancheau: It’s all virtual, but you can get real-time feedback in terms of what consumers may or may not want to see in the future, so games are a great way for us to get that type of feedback.
The [a]list daily: What cars does Nissan have in Sony’s new GT6?
Jon Brancheau: The GTR and the Zs are here and I think everybody’s favorite is the GTR. Here at the LA Auto Show, we launched the GTR Nismo. 545 horsepower wasn’t enough so we’re producing a Nismo version of GTR that will be available in the calendar year ’14 that’s 600 horsepower. It just set a new world record at the Nurburgring with seven minutes and eight seconds and the car does zero to 60 in two seconds.
The [a]list daily: Is this car something we’d see in DLC?
Jon Brancheau: This would probably migrate into the game in the next version. It’s not something that’s in there now, but because it’s a virtual world we have the liberty to create whatever we want in that world.