There’s a reason Sony’s November 15 release, Gran Turismo Sport, isn’t called Gran Turismo 7, according to Polyphony Digital founder and president Kazunori Yamauchi.
“This is a title we could have called Gran Turismo 7; it has that many features included,” Yamauchi said during a private demo behind closed doors at Sony’s E3 booth. “The reason we called it ‘Sport’ is because our major challenge was to implement the eSports elements into the game.”
Yamauchi said the game’s “sport” mode is the future of motorsport as imagined by Gran Turismo. Polyphony Digital has teamed up with FIA (Federation Internationale de Automobile) to debut the Gran Turismo Championships. The PlayStation 4 game includes two different eSports offerings: the Nations Cup and the Manufactures Cup. The Nations Cup is like the World Cup of racing with country-vs.-country competition—pitting drivers in mano-a-mano race—while the Manufacturer Fan Cup is fan-focused and based around car brands such as Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda and Ford.
“With GT Academy, we try to find the single fastest player in the world, but you end up with one winner and the rest of world has lost, and that’s something we want to avoid with Gran Turismo Sport,” Yamauchi said. “It’s always fun to participate in sports and watch top players in the world compete. That’s what we’re trying to achieve here. Everyone from children to the elderly can participate and enjoy the competition. We want to produce lots of winners every month and provide a small sense of accomplishment to everyone, which is the allure of sports in the first place.”
The Nations Cup will track points rankings by region, and the top racers will compete in regional finals in the US, Europe and Japan for the chance to go to the world championship. The Manufacturers Fan Cup will have the top players from each region forming a three-man team with a brand like Toyota and proceed to the finals. There will be a representative team for each manufacturer featured in the game competing in the finals.
Yamauchi said the new advanced matchmaking system has been designed to enable fair, clean, races online. There are two indexes evaluating players: driver class, which tracks speed and how well one does in races, and sportsmanship points, which tracks manners and behavior on the track. Each score effects the driver rating.
“If sportsmanship is down from driving rough, it’ll end up that you’re only matched with similar drivers who race rough on the track,” Yamauchi said. “Clean racers will be matched with clean racers.” He also added that if you want everyone to be involved in the “sport” aspect of the new Gran Turismo, you need a rating system that’s fair and visible to everyone.
The video game championship will occur as part of the FIA World Final and FIA Ceremony, an annual live event where all country and manufacturer representatives gather for real-world car racing. Gamers will be awarded alongside real drivers.
Sony and Polyphony Digital offered a preview of what this live competition will look like at the official unveiling of the new game in London on May 19-20. During the FIA Gran Turismo Championships Pre-Season Test, 32 GT players from Europe, Japan, and the US competed for virtual racing glory.
Polyphony Digital is also partnering with FIA on a real-world FIA Gran Turismo Digital License, which gamers can earn by completing all campaign modes with silver or better results and undertaking an in-game racing etiquette program. Twenty-two countries have agreed to participate in this program (but not the US), which will award a real racing license to gamers. Yamauchi has his own FIA racing license, having earned it the old-fashioned way: by racing real cars on real tracks.
Yamauchi headed to the FIA conference in Torino after E3 in the hopes of expanding the motorsport licensing program.
“By the time of launch, and as years go on, I believe more countries will announce participation in this program,” Yamauchi said.
Expanding its focus on the manufacturers behind the cars featured in the game, Polyphony Digital is debuting Brand Central in Gran Turismo 6.
“Instead of the car dealership from past games, Brand Central is a place where boys discover cars for the first time,” Yamauchi said. “When I was in my second year of junior high I walked into a BMW dealer to pick up a catalog and my heart was racing. We want to recreate that experience of discovering cars for the first time.” Car enthusiasts will be able to further explore vehicles with a Channel section that features videos. And there’s a Museum, which Yamauchi said will give depth and color to automotive history.
“The Museum is reborn with this game,” Yamauchi said. “We’ll give automotive history as well as the history of art, music, literature and society alongside the introduction of automobiles. The player will get a feel for the history of automobiles and the history of the world at that time.”