The past few weeks have been troubling for this greatly anticipated game but has it turned a corner?
When Gran Turismo was released on the PlayStation in 1997, it drove gamers into a frenzy. The racing simulation game had taken five years to develop but not only did it end up earning an entry in Guinness World Records as the best selling PlayStation videogame, it gained a Metacritic user score of 8.6 to go along with the critic score of 96.
Zoom forward to today and the latest iteration of this long-running franchise, Gran Turismo 7, seems to have gone off-track. At the time of writing, 10,120 users have given it a Metacritic score of 2.0 which, as it happens, is Sony’s lowest ever on the review aggregation site. For a game that pulled up on the PlayStation 4 and 5 five years after the last main release, Gran Turismo Sport, it would appear that gamers on the whole have viewed it with great disappointment.
What is perhaps odd is that the game has reviewed well among critics. It has been praised for being a gorgeous-looking game boasting photorealistic graphics so detailed you can see stitching on the steering wheel. The game is packed with cars that are said to handle in the way you’d expect if you were driving them for real (not that we have). You can certainly feel the quality of the drive thanks to amazing haptic feedback.
For director and professional racing driver Kazunori Yamauchi, it should be a proud moment. And indeed it is! A huge amount of effort has gone into developing a game that is technically superb in so many ways and is a joy to play – to an extent. But that’s the problem. There are flaws and issues which have frustrated gamers. Yamauchi has urged players to “watch over the growth of Gran Turismo 7 from a somewhat longer term point of view” but is it fair to expect paying customers to have patience?
One of the bugbears is that the game needs to constantly be connected to a server for gamers in order to play Gran Turismo in full. Fail to go online and players are stuck with the limited offline mode – annoying for anyone playing the game without access to the internet but a problem even for people who have. Indeed, a couple of weeks after the game was released on March 4, there was an outage that lasted a whopping 30 hours which meant players couldn’t enjoy the game they’d dropped a full-price amount on. They couldn’t buy cars or access a lot of the single-player content.
This, it transpired, was due to a problem with the 1.07 update which, the developers found, prevented the game from starting properly on some product versions for the PS4 and PS5. They interrupted its roll out while they sorted it out, which left the game down for much longer than anticipated. As could be expected, it caused widespread frustration.
That, however, paled in comparison to the bigger problem: micro-transactions. Many gamers are not usually fans of forking out more cash on games they’ve already paid good money for so micro-transactions are an issue in and of themselves. The alternative to shelling out for a lot of players is earning in-game currency by playing the game but this was made more difficult when the 1.08 patch actually reduced the amount of Credit players could earn from races and events.
In his explanation for why the game had been down for 30 hours, Yamauchi also touched on the micro-transaction issue. He explained the rationale behind the credit system: “the pricing of cars is a relevant element that conveys their value and rarity, so I do think it’s important for it to be linked with the real world prices.” With cars costing a pretty penny and fewer credits being earned, it meant players who wanted to avoid raiding their real-life bank accounts had to grind. And, as one Metacritic user who have the game a big fat zero posted, “after grinding 10 hours on campaign, you don’t even give me a good car.”
Micro-transactions in Gran Turismo 7 are certainly more expensive than in Gran Turismo 6. According to GTPlanet, gamers could earn 1.75 million credits per hour playing Gran Turismo 7‘s version 1.06, falling to 0.87 million in the subsequent update. By comparison, Gran Turismo 6 allowed players to potentially earn 3.55 million credits per hour.
In terms of time spent, Gran Turismo 7 players who could potentially spent 10.9 hours over 205 races to buy the most expensive car in version 1.06 then had to spend 17.8 hours competing in 333 races. It was clear that Polyphony Digital surely had to do something about this and so, on 25 March, Yamauchi released another statement saying a new patch would be released in the beginning of April, increasing rewards in a clutch of events while also promising to “add new cars and course layouts and make some other fixes.”
Those rewards came with version 1.11 just days ago. The update went as far as almost tripling credits earned for Circuit Experience or the World Circuits races (three of which were added). In-game credits were also increased in the Lobby and Daily Races. Another update 1.12 has since been released (on 13 April) but this simply fixes a few bugs. Does that mean the Metacritic user ratings will start to increase?
There is already evidence of that. “Got improved on every aspect, with a brilliant future ahead,” wrote R-king619, giving it a 10. “Following the latest update, PD have fixed most of the issue plaguing this game, with more improvements still to come,” wrote an equally satisfied Mikez14.”
It would seem Gran Turismo 7 has turned a corner and that gamers are coming back on board with a positive outlook. But the past few weeks will certainly have driven the developer round the bend and proven to be steep learning curve, showing there can be a stark difference between the vision of a maker and the desires of those who play.