VIDEO gaming is a big deal. In terms of profits it’s bigger than the Hollywood film industry, and never is it more evident than when a new title takes an existing franchise to the next step.
Gran Turismo is one of the franchise elite, up there with the likes of Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed and Halo. Its creator and driving force, Kazunori Yamauchi, is the sort of man who likes to see things done properly, which is why when Gran Turismo 6 took over a small corner of Spain, it went in big.
Of all the places in the world to build a city, if only a small one, this has to be one of the strangest. This is Ronda, perched on the edge of a ravine with amazing views, stunning sunsets and a spectacular bridge that’s now a feature in Gran Turismo 6.
The bridge was chosen as the centrepiece for the game’s launch night, and a handful of ultra-exclusive but universally exotic cars were gathered together as the appetiser to journalists arriving for the media briefing.
Gran Turismo is, if you believe the die-hard fans, a game best enjoyed with a steering wheel and pedals. Sony has a truckload of these gaming pods and had placed them all over Ronda. But with a view like this on hand, plus a Red Bull Gran Turismo concept car, there wasn’t much racing going on.
Such is the power of Gran Turismo that manufacturers are even using its events to preview their own cars – even in disguise. This is the future BMW M4 making a turn through Ronda, with the stunning bridge just behind where the photographer was standing.
Again, Gran Turismo has such clout – financial and social – that Ronda chose the launch night to name a street after Yamauchi-san himself. As a young tourist he discovered and was fascinated by Ronda, specifically choosing the city for the launch. Looks like the city repaid his favour.
The launch night was just a precursor to the real action the next day. The assembled media shifted to Ascari Race Resort, which you might know from various Top Gear visits over the years. There the real action started, with a Gran Turismo-branded Nissan GT-R among the pick of the powerhouses.
Ascari is a tight, technical track that’s demanding even in a small, lightweight, low-power car. Something like BMW’s M5 is much more of a challenge, and shows its weight through the tricky corner sequences.
Nissan is a high-profile partner of Gran Turismo, so naturally there were a number of GT-Rs for the media to get to grips with. The car’s staggering traction and biblical performance make it lightning-quick around Ascari – but not when being driven by a terrified video game magazine hack.
One of the highlights of the launch was Ayrton Senna’s old Lotus, which he drove before his hyper-successful move to McLaren. Yamauchi-san sat in it for photos before it was driven on a few gentle laps for the crowd.
As if having a street named after him wasn’t enough, the top brass at Ascari gave Kazunori honorary membership of the Ascari Club, giving him full access to the facilities. The man lives in Japan so he probably won’t get to use it much, but at least he knows that whenever he’s in the area he can squeeze a few quick laps in.