Screenshots courtesy of Polyphony Digital & SCEA
Let me fill you in on a little secret: Many people think automotive journalists are the most informed people in the car industry outside of the OEMs themselves—that actually isn't true. Similarly, it might be natural to think if it's not the journalists, perhaps it's the dealerships and dealer networks that are the most informed. I mean, they need to know what they'll be selling ahead of time, right? While that last part is true, they still aren't quite at the tip of the spear.
No, the most informed people in the automotive industry are the top-tier, or "triple A," racing game developers. Automakers have long realized having their products featured in major racing games is a cornerstone of their overall marketing strategy, and over time have increasingly incorporated video games into their launch plans.
In my years covering the industry and racing games, I've learned certain game developers actually know some OEM's release cycle plans over the next decade or so. So when Toyota revealed the GR Supra Racing Concept in early March and announced the car would also make its digital debut in Gran Turismo Sport in early April, I wasn't the least bit surprised.
However, the real question is how Gran Turismo godfather Kazunori Yamauchi and his team at Polyphony Digital managed to get the GR Supra Racing Concept into a major game closely followed by millions of people without anyone finding out about it? How did they manage to do all the work that needs to be done to get a car into a video game (reference photos, scanning, audio recording, etc.) while everything still being completely secret?
According to Kazunori, "In line with the development of the Supra Concept, we were continuously receiving information. The communication took place in many different locations, whether it be at Toyota headquarters, at their research centers, at the Polyphony office or even the Nürburgring, whenever [Supra] Chief Engineer Mr. Tada and I had time to talk."
It seemed like such a casual approach to such a large undertaking. I mean Kaz and his team had to translate a car that is technically just a concept into GT Sport, a game in which its mechanics are based on real physics.
"Technically it's not that difficult. If you take the time to input a few thousand parameters, Gran Turismo can simulate a car properly." said Yamauchi-san.
Oh, just a few thousand parameters, huh? Sounds like a walk in the park! Seriously though, I thought Kazunori-san was likely the first person outside of Toyota corporate to see the GR Supra Racing Concept up close. When it comes to cars, Kazunori-san is a man who has seen it all. I wondered what his impressions of the Supra concept were once he laid eyes on it for the first time.
Kazunori responded, "While we are in the midst of an era where conventional sports cars are few and far between, I saw in it a strong will and hope to achieve the allure of a classical sports car using the latest technology. The car is bigger than the GT86, but the wheelbase is shorter than the GT86, and you can tell that they were going for a very high body stiffness. It's obvious that they are aiming to achieve a high quality sports car in a space that has been dominated by Porsche in recent years, but with a front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout."
I've gotta say, that was a much deeper response than I was initially expecting. When I first saw photos of the Supra concept, my impressions were simply, "Damn."
I guess that's why he is where he is. He's very good at seeing past a car's sheet metal and into the underlying philosophies that go into its conception and production.
That led me to another point. Anyone who's followed racing games recently has noticed that Toyota has seemingly reduced their presence in just about every major racing game franchise. Though, Toyota still seems to have a close relationship with Gran Turismo and Polyphony Digital.
I asked Kazunori about this and he responded, "Automobile manufacturers in general have been maintaining a good relationship with Gran Turismo. I think the reason for this is that we have continued to create a product that really respects the work of the auto makers for the last 20 years, and they know that Gran Turismo recreates their cars perfectly, beautifully, down to every last detail."
Well, it looks like the mystery is solved. If you make a series of high-quality racing games, then OEMs will come to you when they want to put their top-secret sports car concept in your game.
If you already have Gran Turismo Sport for your PS4 or PS4 Pro, then by the time you read this the GR Supra Racing Concept should already be available for download and you can try it out for yourself right now.
Do us a favor and use "Scapes" mode to take some sweet pictures of the Supra Concept in the game and tag us in any photos you upload to Instagram or Twitter.
We want to thank Kazunori Yamauchi not just for taking the time to do this interview but for producing a racing game franchise that we've been fanboy-ing over for years!