Forza vs. Gran Turismo: A War of Words

Features 114 October 18, 2009 by
kazunori-yamauchi-lightsFew franchises in the gaming world can trigger such heated debate as Forza and Gran Turismo. The reason for the rivalry is obvious, with each high-profile game competing for hearts and minds on the front lines of the “console wars”. Up until this year, however, Microsoft’s Turn 10 Studios and Kazunori Yamauchi’s Polyphony Digital worked quietly on their respective titles and delivered driving games of excellent quality for each console. As the online rhetoric of fans begins to heat up, however, that code of silence is beginning to melt away. Here’s what Yamauchi had to say about the competition while speaking with NowGamer just last week:

“[…] I keep my eye on them from a distance. My observations tend to more often than not centre on, ‘Oh, so they’re concentrating extra hard on this’, or ‘oh, so they’re not worried about that’, or ‘they’ve really got a lot of passion for that’. All my observations are first-impression sort of things. I don’t look at the games in too much detail. Just a one-glance observation is good enough. I think about what they’re trying to do, how much time they’re spending, how they’re going about putting the game together, how do they feel about the game as they’re making it… that sort of thing.”

Yamauchi’s comments stand in contrast to what Turn 10‘s Creative Director, Dan Greenawalt, said about him at E3 earlier this year:

dan-greenawalt“We watched the Sony press conference and we were like, OK so we just brought what we believe firmly is the best racing game ever made, and our competition didn’t show up. So now you can see why I’m fairly bullish. I hate to sound so cocky but the truth is the stars have aligned. I don’t know how else to say it.

“Kazunori Yamauchi-san is someone I have tremendous respect for. I have tremendous respect for the work of team, but I am a GT fan. I bought my first car that I stressed out about buying because I played it in Gran Turismo. I’m in this industry because of that game.

“That said, as a fan of the series, he hasn’t done anything for me in years. So in many ways he’s handing the baton to me. He probably doesn’t see it that way, but I do, because I believe that I’m now taking what he ignited in me as a passion, and taking it to a much, much, much broader level. I’m not saying it’s necessarily larger yet, but definitely broader, younger, older, men, women. So I’m really excited.”

And, via Joystiq,

“So, props to Kazunori Yamauchi-san and the PS1 team. That said, I feel that he’s passed us the baton. Perhaps he hasn’t meant to, but we have taken the genre to new levels and they’ve stopped evolving the genre. So again, tremendous respect to him, but I’d say the differentiator is they’re old school. The emperor’s naked, and I don’t want to, you know, I don’t want to slap him around, but no game competes [with] us right now.”

…and Xbox360Achievements:

“I play a lot of racing games, including PC racing games and I have not seen anything that is even within years of what we’re delivering here.”

As this war of words plays out, it’s becoming evident that, to Yamauchi, it may not be a “war” at all. As we learn more about him, he appears to view himself as an artist, judging his work by the standards of his own ideals. Likewise, when analyzing the work of his peers, he does not try to compare it to his own – instead, he attempts to understand their interpretation of what a racing game should be, and how their work may have lived up to their own goals.

Heated rhetoric aside, it’s very interesting to see how two very different groups of people approach the same problem. Yamauchi, in his quest for the perfect driving simulation, delivers games of stunning quality. Turn 10, in their pursuit of the GT franchise, introduce innovative new features to differentiate their product in unique and creative ways. Ultimately, it’s a race from which neither will emerge “victorious” over the other, because racing game fans have already won.

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