Kazunori Yamauchi Reveals Gran Turismo’s Original Working Title was “Sim Racing”

Polyphony Digital studio head and Gran Turismo series creator Kazunori Yamauchi has revealed that the original working title for the game was, simply, “Sim Racing”.

This interesting nugget came as part of a presentation given by Yamauchi at a special event in Paris, as part of a motorsport exhibition at La Maison de la Culture du Japon (MCJP) — “House of Culture of Japan”.

Yamauchi was responding to an expansive question from a member of the audience in a Q&A at the end of the event. The question briefly touched on when Gran Turismo first existed, which led to this intriguing answer:

“When Gran Turismo was born, the first code name was ‘Sim Racing‘,” said Yamauchi. “It was around 1992, and it was just a little project on paper. For two years I worked on this project, and it was in 1994 that I came up with the name Gran Turismo“.

This would have been around the time of the first PlayStation entering its development stages, after a famous and acrimonious split with Nintendo, while Yamauchi was still at Sony Music Entertainment.

Although the game had been something brewing in his head for some years at that point, it was a project that the nascent Sony Computer Entertainment originally passed on — though some of its underpinnings went into the arcade-style Motor Toon Grand Prix.

Having earlier noted in his presentation that simulation racing — at least outside of niche motorsport titles, and on consoles — didn’t really exist before Gran Turismo, Yamauchi expanded further that the working title might have been accidental clairvoyance:

“Sim racing today, when you think about it, it’s become the name of the genre. Maybe it was unconscious but by having this code name Sim Racing maybe it was my ambition to create a new genre.”

Other questions posed to Yamauchi included whether it was more difficult to licence and model current cars. The answer fundamentally hinged on the time taken to model the cars — up to eight months in GT7 — and the role of car manufacturers in the process:

“We could integrate recent models from 2023 in a 2023 update. But as I was saying earlier, this would involve quite a lot of work.

“We’d need the manufacturers to send us absolutely all the data at a very early stage. It takes like one or even two years to be more comfortable, to have not only all the design data, but also the textures, the technical data.

“But we really need to be able to work with the manufacturers very, very early on, and even they don’t necessarily have all the information we need to give us as soon as the models come out.”

The presentation itself ran to almost an hour, and covered some very familiar ground for Gran Turismo fans. There was a brief history of the series, including the 90 million-player milestone first referenced in December, coverage of GT Academy and the upcoming Gran Turismo movie based on it, the new Gran Turismo Sophy machine-learning AI system, and the Gran Turismo World Series and its unique, Gundam-like trophy.

You can catch a replay of the whole thing below, although do note that as a Japanese cultural event in an institution in Paris, it’s only available in Japanese with a French translator.

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