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Gran Turismo 6: Kazunori Yamauchi and Jim Ryan on 15 years of GT

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As many of you will no doubt have noticed, last week we opened the garage doors on Gran Turismo 6 – the stunning next entry in Polyphony Digital’s legendary racing series, due later this year on PlayStation 3.

While the gathered media were getting their very first look at the game at our Silverstone event, PlayStation Blog sat down with its creator Polyphony CEO Kazunori Yamauchi and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe CEO Jim Ryan to look back on GT’s illustrious 15 year history, and look ahead to its exciting, genre-advancing future.

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Jim, what was your very first encounter with the Gran Turismo series?
Jim Ryan: I was actually a really big Motor Toon Grand Prix fan. I was over in Tokyo at whatever the development studio was called then and someone said “Come and see Kazunori’s new game.” I was used to a very fun cartoony racer and picked up this early version of GT and thought “ahh, it could be very good and technically impressive, and the graphics are lovely, but I’m not sure if this is a good idea. Motor Toon GP was such a great game!”

Clearly I was wrong and Kazunori was 100% right! I don’t think if he carried on with Motor Toon GP we’d be sat here celebrating 70 million units of Gran Turismo sold worldwide…

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What’s been the defining moment of the series for you?
JR: I remember when we launched PS2. We’re now 13 years away from that, 170 million units produced, greatest success story in history for a TV-based console. However, at the start of the life cycle it was very difficult in Europe. Price points were high and we found it very difficult to sell the system. But then along came GT3. It came in this lovely red packaging and we did a lot of hardware bundles. Sales of PS2 went through the sky and it never stopped. GT3 made a huge, huge impact on the life of PS2. For me, that was the best moment.

Why do you think it has continued to thrive over the years when other racing series have come and gone?
JR: The quality of the driving experience, in our opinion, is so much higher than what’s available on competing platforms. Whether it’s the driving experience or how the tracks are so faithfully recreated, in our opinion there’s nothing in the market that approaches it.

There is no substitution for absolute quality and obsessive attention to detail. If you do those things you have a far better chance of success. One of the great things about Yamauchi-san is he is completely unswerving in his dedication to making something that’s perfect.

Kazunori, you’ve been working on Gran Turismo for nearly 20 years now. Is it hard to stay focussed and maintain the energy you had when you were making the original?
Kazunori Yamauchi: The main thing that we try to do is to keep improving what’s in front of us. There’s a lot of hard work there, but that’s what we enjoy doing. There’s a lot of fun to be had. I think that if we continue that hard work, something great is going to come out at the end of it. Maybe I’m thinking about it too simply, but that’s the idea.

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What do you think the young Kazunori Yamuachi who was making the first Gran Turismo would think if you could show him GT6?
KY: I think he’d think that his dreams had come true! He would think that this is the kind of game that he wanted to play, and to make.

Improving what we’ve been doing has continued over the years. It’s not something that you can actually do all the time, even if you try. We’ve been really lucky that over the last 15 years we have in fact been able to do that, and that we’ve been able to do it with the same team. If you look at the wider game industry, there are not many places where they’ve kept the same team over the years working on the same title.

Why is Gran Turismo 6 debuting on PS3, rather than PS4?
JR: You had GT1 and GT2 on PS one, GT3 and GT4 on PS2, then there’s GT5 on PS3 and a space next to it. The difference between Gran Turismo and GT2 is unbelievable, but they’re both on the same platform. The difference between GT3 and GT4 is huge. We’re absolutely confident when GT6 comes, you’ll see a big step change up from GT5 too. There’s still a lot of potential on PS3 that a developer like Polyphony can really exploit.

And the other factor is that on PS3 we have an install base of 70 million units. On PS4 on launch day we’ll have an install base of zero units. There’ll be plenty of games to help drive PS4 – not least Driveclub in the racing genre from Evolution Studios, a studio with a fantastic pedigree.

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Graphical fidelity has reached the point where it can be hard to spot major differences from one iteration of a game series to the next. How hard is it to surprise gamers with a title like GT6?
KY: That’s very true. We’ve got to the point where the hardware has matured and it’s really difficult to tell graphically what’s new. Professionals can tell, but a casual game player probably couldn’t. As for GT, we always love new technology; we’re always going to pursue it and implement it, whether it be improving the PS3 version or working on a PS4 version. The key thing with GT6 is the blending of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ – where something new and interesting will come to life from the merging of two totally different industries. The more you work on that, the more interesting it gets.

It’s not really a matter of lessening the difference between real and virtual. The interesting part of it is when the ‘real’ starts to effect the ‘virtual’, and vice versa. How these different worlds start to affect each other is what we try and work on in GT, and it’s what makes GT so interesting.

GT Academy is an example of that. It’s not really just about developing racing drivers. What’s happening there is that they’re kind of re-defining what a racing driver is. They’re really breaking new ground, and reinventing the system of how the racing world works.

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Around half of Gran Turismo’s lifetime sales tally has come from Europe. Why do you think it’s so popular here?
JR: I think the answer to that lies in the nature of the markets. The American market is much more of a core gamer market where there’s a greater preference amongst gamers for shooters and action adventure games like GTA, whereas the European market tends over time to go somewhat younger, and somewhat more casual in its nature. That sort of demographic really lends itself to a racing game like GT, which appeals to both sexes and across all ages.

Finally Jim, what’s your motor of choice when you boot up GT?
JR: I’ll play whatever comes up! Personally motorsport isn’t one of my great passions. I do enjoy the game a great deal, but real world motorsport… fast is not what I do. I drive slowly, and not very often!

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