Gran Turismo 7 is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

I don’t play Gran Turismo, but if you spend even a little time reading video game news, you’ve probably seen something about the game’s many post-launch issues. Things like the in-game economy making it difficult to purchase vehicles without ponying up real world cash, the online requirement even for single player, and the fact that in-game car prices are partially linked to and based on real world prices, at a time where all car prices are insane (meaning prices for cars that are old, rare, and fast are even worse).

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about these developments. The game is clearly trying to position itself as a Live Service (even if Sony doesn’t want to admit it), and they clearly want even the Single Player audience to pony up for some good old “Recurrent User Spending.”

What I don’t know, however, is how much any of this was known ahead of release. I found one link that reveals that the online requirement was known in advance, but I (admittedly) haven’t looked into whether the same can be said of the high car prices or their plans for the in-game economy. So the question on my mind is, did Sony telegraph all these other ways in which they intended to eat the player base, or did they pull the same trick that Activision did with Crash Team Racing, and make changes only after the positive reviews started rolling in?

I think the answer to this question matters a lot. If it truly was a bait and switch, then I’d say these complaints are entirely valid, and my heart goes out to the players. But if all (or even most) of these bad practices were known, or even hinted at, ahead of time, then I would say this is yet another situation in which a publisher told gamers to shoot themselves in the foot, and they happily obliged.

Unlike, say, Cart Life, being poor in this game doesn’t really reveal much about the world. Or it does, just not deliberately.

This all hearkens back to this post from March, where I stated the following:

I think one of the biggest changes in gaming over the decade is that its evolution is no longer “naturally” driven by market forces. That is to say, Jane and Joe Q Gamer aren’t deciding on their own accord whether or not some new game/console/genre/trend/etc. is hot or not. Rather, the industry itself is deciding for them, and manipulating them into going along with it.

I realize this theory may be considered unproductive or controversial. Who am I to say that people really aren’t enjoying something for their own reasons? And I realize the fine line I am walking here.

At the same time, I’ve also watched corporations do everything they can over the last few decades to erode things like user privacy, consumer protections, and worker protections by actively trying to convince us that these erosions are in our best interests – and they’re succeeding.

Images from the game are often hard to distinguish from actual photographs. This one is not, however.

So yes, it does matter to me whether GT7 players were hoodwinked or not. Because it completely changes the conversation. If they were, then we can all stand by them and find ways to pressure Sony to make more improvements (it worked with EA and Battlefront 2). But if they weren’t – if they knew about all the bad practices going into their purchase – then we have a very different matter on our hands. Because in that case, we have to ask ourselves whether or not they deserved it. In other words, do we say “You should have known better, and it serves you right,” or do we say “you’ve been coerced and trained into acting against your own best interest by very powerful forces who have an extremely keen view into human psychology, and I want to help you gently break free of that cycle and stand up to these awful practices?”

It’s not an easy discussion to have. I myself waffle between both answers. My first draft of this post leaned toward the former, but after some self reflection I’m leaning toward the latter.

In any case, this is all just fodder for more discussion. Have at it.

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2 years ago

i dont follow news closely enough to know whether any of those issues were telegraphed, but i think Live Service is eating video games and it sucks. sony making changes like this to a long running series is of a piece with buying bungie. i would like to blame the allure of recurring revenue for the closure of japan studio as well, but who knows why that happened. its all a shame though.

2 years ago

In this particular case, with the very real caveat that I haven’t played a Gran Tourismo game since 2, some of this seems very much like giving people exactly what they’ve been clamboring for nearly two decades. Theres’s a long lived GT joke that you’ll be spending a lot of time ‘racing’ your Honda sedan for the first dozen+ hours, and (many) people have often HATED how slow it can be to get something that’s fun to drive. The suspect part of this, then, is how suspiciously smoothly the ‘games-as-a-service’ model was used as the solution to the problem.