In case you missed it, GTPlanet was on hand at Madrid Games Week for the FIA-certified GT Sport Online Championship regional final. While there, with all the action going on around us, we were able to catch up again with Gran Turismo series founder Kazunori Yamauchi.
The scale of the Madrid event — a 500-seat arena in a 26,000sqft stage — took even Yamauchi by surprise. When we asked if he ever imagined the competitions would be this size when he first thought of GT Sport, he answered emphatically “No I didn’t!”.
We reflected on the fact that the event took place pretty close to GT Sport‘s first anniversary. Yamauchi noted that the game is now “totally different from what it was when it launched a year ago”. He also commented that “there’s a lot more content and a lot more going on, and that has also helped to keep a lot of people playing the game”.
Of course, keeping the game updated is a new challenge. The team at Polyphony has kept content coming on a monthly basis almost like clockwork, and Yamauchi revealed that it has been very hard work to keep it up. “I think over the last 20 years I worked pretty hard, but I think I’m working hardest now,” he told us. Interestingly, he also revealed he’d originally intended GT Sport to be a service-based game.
Among that content is this month’s new circuit, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, revealed at the event. Yamauchi noted that this was the location for a GT Sport launch event back in 2017, and he got to drive around the circuit in a Nissan GT-R. This, he says, gave him the idea for the 2018 FIA GT Championship, that “we could do the final in Madrid for Europe and try to get the Catalunya circuit ready in time for the event”.
We noticed that a lot of the promotional displays for the event included the Metropolis building, as seen in the Gran Turismo 6 “Circuito de Madrid” course, and thought that might hint at a return. “Eventually I want to have that track back in,” he responded — but he was more coy on whether there’d be a new American track revealed at next week’s FIA Americas Regional Final: “Maybe, maybe not. That might be possible,” he said with a laugh.
Speaking of the finals, Yamauchi was full of praise for the drivers. He noted that when talking to the competitors “you realize that their whole life is Gran Turismo; some of these guys have been playing since they were four or five years old”, and that he feels there’s a lot to learn from speaking to them.
He also revealed that he regards the drivers at the finals, as well as the wider community, as a family:
I try to imagine what the scene looked like when F1 first started back in the day. I think back then the organizers, the drivers, the journalists, they were sort of like one small family when they first started off. And what’s happening here is the same thing: the competitors, the commentators, the community, the media; we form one family.
Those of us who’ve been around the GT family for a while will recall Yamauchi used to post times in GT Academy and in the time trials in Gran Turismo 3. Does he still take part in races? “Yes, every once in a while, but I think I was fastest in Gran Turismo maybe 14 years ago!”. But you won’t encounter Kaz_Yamauchi on the track, as he doesn’t enter with his name.
Keep an eye on GTPlanet for more from our interview with Kazunori and the EMEA regional final.