Gran Turismo (GT) was the first racing game I ever bought. In fact, GT was the reason I bought my original PlayStation console. To afford it, I worked in a film vault during spring break back in high school. My job was transferring film reels of old TV shows like Gilligan's Island and The Love Boat from their old metal film cans to plastic containers. (Fun fact: when film gets old it smells funny.)
GT games played a major role in my passion for cars. The game literally opened up the larger world of cool cars that were never sold in America. In fact, GT is how I first learned about the Nissan Skyline, and I know I wasn't the only person to have such a formative experience. The combined sales between the first Gran Turismo all the way up to Gran Turismo 6 (GT 6) add up to 76.49 million units sold, making Gran Turismo one of the best selling video game series in history.
The game's success is largely due its creator, Kazunori "Kaz" Yamauchi. Kaz has earned a reputation for being an uncompromising perfectionist. He is not afraid to delay a game's release if it does not meet his standards. When it came to Gran Turismo 5 (GT 5), his perfectionist ways be nt of controversy; it took developers half a decade to release GT 5 after GT 4, and the gap was the longest between two games in the history of the series.
When GT 5 was finally released, it garnered positive reviews and was generally well received by fans of the series – though during the interval before its release, rival series Forza Motorsport rose to prominence, giving Gran Turismo fans another racing sim option.
Gran Turismo 6 was released a relatively short three years after GT 5, with more cars and tracks than any previous GT game. Yet it has the lowest sales numbers of any previous game in the history of the series, moving a little less than half the units GT 5 did. You can bet this did not sit well with Kaz.
GT fans expected "Gran Turismo 7" would be a return to form once the PlayStation 4 (PS4) was released. The new PlayStation console came, but a GT 7 announcement didn't. Even as big video game conventions like E3 and Gamescom came and went, there was no update on "Gran Turismo 7" or if it was even going to be produced.
Then in May of 2016, Kaz finally announced the next game in the series; however, it wasn't called "Gran Turismo 7." It was named Gran Turismo Sport (GT Sport). Fans were confused. Is GT Sport going to be a spinoff? Will it be a smaller game just to hold fans over until the real "Gran Turismo 7" was released?
Message boards were alight with theories and speculation. It wasn't until an interview at E3 last year with yours truly that Kaz gave a definitive answer. I asked him point blank why he would make Gran Turismo Sport rather than just continuing the series with "Gran Turismo 7?” Kaz responded with a bombshell revelation that there will not be a "GT 7" and that GT Sport is actually a reboot of the series, essentially bringing the numbered games to an end.
Why would he do this when nearly every game in the GT series was a success? What reason could Kaz have for starting over? The answer started to become clear during a private GT Sport presentation in which Kaz detailed new features of the game. This game goes deep into automotive appreciation; there will be modes to try and recreate the feeling of discovering your favorite car brand for the first time, a mode that literally aligns automotive history with art history, and even a way for players to earn a real and valid "digital" FIA racing license!
After learning about all the things Kaz is looking to put into GT Sport, his reasoning behind rebooting the series started to become clear. GT Sport is everything Kaz wanted the very first GT game to be. Obviously the first Gran Turismo was limited by the technology of the time; with Kaz being able to do so much more now than he could then, GT Sport is perhaps a way to fulfill the original vision he had when he first conceptualized Gran Turismo. Now that he is in a place where he can complete that vision, he wants to start with it.
I was pretty inspired by his presentation, but there was one thing that bugged me. At the time GT Sport was announced, the more powerful "PlayStation 4 Pro" (PS4 Pro) was not official yet, but we knew it was coming. I asked Kaz if the PS4 Pro would play a factor in the release of GT Sport. Kaz stated he didn't know anything about the PS4 Pro beyond rumors so he couldn't give me an answer.
Two months later in August 2016, Kaz announced that GT Sport was being delayed until 2017. What was the reasoning behind the delay? According to Kaz, he needed "more time to perfect GT Sport.” I thought again about my exchange with Kaz over the PS4 Pro. I guess he wanted to hold back the game until he could see what possibilities the new console could unlock, though at the time there was no proof the PS4 Pro had anything to do with GT Sport's delay.
Fast-forward to December 2016 at the "PlayStation Experience" event in Anaheim, Calif. - Kazunori attended and announced GT Sport would feature 4K resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR) support, and Virtual Reality (VR) support. Each of these elements is a main selling point of the PS4 Pro. It seemed a bit odd in June Kaz stated he didn't know much about the PS4 Pro other than rumor; then in August he announces GT Sport's delay; then just three months later new features are announced, all of which are essentially tailor made for the PS4 Pro. The timing is certainly suspicious, but there is no reason to believe Kaz wasn’t being totally honest when I interviewed him.
The unfortunate part of it all is even though those new features were announced, no updates were given on the game's release. As of the writing of this article, the official release date for GT Sport is still a blanket "2017."
Is GT Sport going to end up like GT 5? Will Kazunori Yamauchi once again get caught up chasing perfection to the chagrin of his fans? The answers remain to be seen. For what it's worth, I think Kaz will come through and I am looking forward to it. Because just like the original Gran Turismo was the reason I bought my first PlayStation, GT Sport will be the reason why I buy a PS4. Hopefully this time I won't have to work in a film vault to get it.