Allow me to be optimistic for a second, but on paper, Gran Turismo Sport sounded like a truly exceptional product. Despite an entire world of PC racing simulators dominated by the monolithic entity of iRacing, and an increasing amount of third party applications intended to bring organized online events to other titles at a fraction of the cost, the console gaming world has otherwise been left out in the cold from this competitive and sometimes frustrating genre of software. For Polyphony Digital to make the jump onto the PlayStation 4 and boldy announce they were done with the automotive sandbox style of games the Gran Turismo series had become known for – eventually revealing a no-nonsense hardcore online racing simulator – it was a welcome change of pace, and a challenge no other developer possessed the manpower or previous experience with vehicle dynamics to embark upon. Gran Turismo had to evolve at some point, and Gran Turismo Sport seemed like a natural progression into the future of gaming. You could only grind through the game’s laughable single player career mode and amass an absurd collection of cars for so long before the franchise became stale.
However, with so many lifelong Gran Turismo fans growing accustomed to the traditional format of previous games in the series, and accounting for an overwhelming majority of the game’s sales, the announcement that the next Gran Turismo would essentially turn into iRacing for consoles made some folks – including myself – wonder how GT Sport would fare in the long run. As the press releases were published, and more and more info has been circulated about this upcoming entry in such a prestigious virtual auto racing franchise, it became apparent that mastermind Kazunori Yamauchi was 100% committed to changing the identity of Gran Turismo in a way that would more or less alienate the casual majority. I personally don’t have a problem with this, but a whole bunch of other people might, and a recent batch of info published on GTPlanet – the number one source for Gran Turismo news – indicates Kaz has gone above and beyond what even the most dedicated of sim racers expect out of GT Sport.
There is obviously going to be a whole bunch of people misinterpreting the above information, so I’ll try to break it down as best as I can to ensure the outrage never goes into inappropriate levels. Yes, Kaz is really fucking retarded for giving this the thumbs up, and I’ll get to that in a moment, but from what I understand, this will only affect a handful of people.
To get the most important bits out of the way, Gran Turismo Sport will have an offline campaign mode, though it will be composed in a way that differs from previous installments in the Gran Turismo series. You’ll be able to progress through these events at your own pace to earn credits, experience points, and other progression related items, though the career “tree” will not resemble previous Gran Turismo titles that force you to grind out shitbox races for your first few days with the game. You won’t need any sort of license for these. You also won’t need a license to race online – peer to peer custom lobbies will still be available, and ranked playlists operating in a fashion similar to iRacing official races will also be open to all competitors, presumably sorted by sportsmanship points and driver ratings.
“Although racing licenses are not difficult to obtain, they are required to go racing in any FIA-sanctioned event, and the FIA Online Championship in Gran Turismo Sport will be no exception.” – GTPlanet.net
However, to compete in the FIA Online Championship – the events broadcasted on Saturday nights featuring only the best Gran Turismo Sport drivers, you will need to both attain and purchase the FIA Digital License from your local auto racing club. The game will keep a running tally of your statistics and whether you’ve met all requirements for the license, and upon completing all tasks laid out, you’ll be able to apply for your license – obviously paying a fee that will presumably cost you anywhere from $50 to $100. Again, this license will most likely only serve one purpose: allowing you to enter FIA Online Championship events.
If you’re still a bit lost, Gran Turismo is essentially trying to mirror what iRacing have done with the NASCAR Peak Anti-Freeze Series, Blancpain GT Series, or Grand Prix Series – though Gran Turismo’s partnership is with the FIA instead of specific series. Events will be hosted and broadcasted at the same time each weekend, with the same group of fifty or so drivers competing for a mammoth prize. Whereas iRacing invites drivers to these championships on an individual basis – thanks to the relatively small size of the service in comparison to a mainstream console game – Gran Turismo understandably has no way to police the quality of drivers coming into the FIA sanctioned championship on statistics alone, and forcing participants to acquire appropriate game progression beforehand, and physically apply for a license afterwards, is an easy way to determine who’s dedicated and professional enough to represent the FIA on an international level. iRacing can more or less track down everybody who’s about to earn a spot in their lucrative Pro Series through Facebook or Teamspeak for an interview or two, but with the volume of individuals picking up Gran Turismo at Best Buy, this is obviously a lot harder for Polyphony.
My first reaction to what’s literally a real license to drive fake cars, is that of fremdschämen. I mean, I feel embarrassed for Polyphony Digital on this one. Considering this game will be functioning as iRacing for the PlayStation 4, I immediately look at how the Professional side of iRacing is run for a quick comparison – and in particular the three major series with massive prize payouts – and there isn’t an iRacing equivalent for an official pretend race car license. Even in the highest series that are aggressively advertised around the site, the general rule of thumb is to not be a piece of shit during the races, and if you are, you’re immediately given the boot. There aren’t many entry requirements to actually gain entry into the league, aside from finishing well in the required series, and having a satisfactory rapport among other community members.
iRacing stewards most certainly didn’t call up someone like Mike Conti or Logan Clampitt, asking them to fill out a NASCAR License Application and pay a $100 fee just so they could run in a few iRacing races each year – and these Peak Anti-Freeze Series events are technically run under the NASCAR sanctioning body. Even though certain pretend race car drivers are passing out hero cards in the garage area in hopes of landing an ARCA ride, none of them posses physical iRacing licenses tucked neatly away in their wallet. So for Gran Turismo to take things a step further, it’s like… “Kaz… this is a bit too far.”
However, I can at least partially defend Polyphony on this decision, because I can understand there’s probably a bigger picture most aren’t aware of. Kaz really wants in on this eSport thing, even though the whole racing side of things hasn’t caught on in terms of audience, and he wants to do it right – evidenced by the deal with the FIA. I can see the requirement of a virtual license to run in the officially sanctioned FIA Online Championship something that the FIA themselves requested, partially as a way to ensure this wouldn’t be a shitshow like some iRacing events can turn out to be, and partially as a way to make a bit of cash on the side. Yes, it’s absolutely stupid that you’re going to need to apply for a license just to run in a sweet Gran Turismo league – don’t get me wrong – but the sheer scale of Gran Turismo as a game compared to a niche offering like iRacing, and the FIA’s involvement – who don’t want to fuck around – this may have been the only compromise that worked.
But just… yeah, don’t lug this one around in your wallet as another piece of identification. It’s like, kind of silly when you take a step back and realize someone’s asking you to get a license to play Gran Turismo in your underwear on Saturday nights…