Icons: Season 4, Episode 1
There's no question that racing is one of the oldest and well-loved genres in the game industry, but there is one series out there that truly stands apart from the crowd in the minds of auto enthusiasts and casual gamers alike, and it is Gran Turismo. Named after the European endurance races of legend such as 24 heures du Mans and Targa Florio, Gran Turismo has dominated the racing game genre since the debut of its first game in 1998. However, the inspiration behind this game had its start long before Polyphony Digital's famous racing simulator ever hit the Sony Playstation. Racing games have been around since the very beginning of the arcade era, when casual gamers flocked to arcades to experience the thrill of playing Pole Position using a real wheel. Later on, arcades and home consoles began to carry more sophisticated racing titles such as Ridge Racer and Need for Speed, but Polys Entertainment designer Kazunori Yamauchi had dreams of creating a different kind of racing game. Yamauchi envisioned creating a game where players would drive licensed cars and win money to modify these cars as if they were the real thing; combined with realistic graphics and challenging gameplay, the game sounded like a sure bet, but his supervisors thought otherwise. Instead, Yamauchi's first game was Motor Toon Grand Prix, a game using Tex Avery-style characters that drive racing cars. However, Yamauchi used his experience designing this game to appeal to his supervisors to allow him to make Gran Turismo. Yamauchi was finally granted permission to begin work on his dream game in the early 1990s and began to seek licensed cars to use in the game. He felt that having real cars increased the appeal of the game tenfold over using generic cars, but using real cars meant that they had to handle just like the real thing. Thus, the team at what was called from then on Polyphony Digital began research for the game, taking thousands of photographs of each of the hundreds of vehicles that would be in the game and test driving them as well. When Gran Turismo was released in December 1997, it included 150 real-life cars that gamers could drive by winning races within the game. By 1999, the game had sold 6 million copies and the team prepared for a sequel. Gran Turismo 2 came out in 1999, roughly 2 years after the debut of the first game. However, upon its release it became apparent that the team had hurried through the game--though it was still beautiful, it contained many playability flaws that irked hardcore fans. But regardless of the criticism, GT2 sold 1 million copies in only six weeks. Though a sequel was initially promised for the launch of the Playstation 2, Polyphony Digital decided to learn from their mistakes and take the time to make sure that everything was going right with the next installment of the series. Plus, they had to adjust to the next-generation hardware and the capabilities it contained as well. Gran Turismo 3 became the biggest-selling PS2 game of its time when it was released in April 2001, with fans marveling at its intensely realistic graphics and superb gameplay. Soon, automakers as well began to realize the value of having their cars appear in the game, and special concept versions of the game were produced for certain lines of automobiles. Work began immediately on Gran Turismo 4, but the number of expectations put on the developers added to delays on the project, which ultimately cost the game online play. However, Yamauchi worries not--he prefers that people think of his game as an encyclopedia of cars. Indeed, with over six hundred models included in the game, one has the opportunity to unlock and drive more automobiles in the game than most people will drive in their entire lives.