Last week, Gran Turismo 7 was taken offline for more than a full day, which highlighted how inconvenient the online requirement seems for the game’s lifespan. But as part of this update cycle, Polyphony Digital also overhauled the game’s economy in a way that immediately poisoned their relationship with many of their players. In a nutshell, they gave everyone an in-game pay cut.
As part of the latest patch, a number of the game’s single-player racing events have had their payouts reduced by around a third across the board. Many of these were races that players realized were perfect for farming credits: lax entry requirements meant you could take a super-powered car into the race and dominate the field without too much trouble. glitches (which also made it easier to get the clean race payout bonus) and races were short enough to be a pretty good way to quickly build up your in-game bank.
Game Director Kazunori Yamauchi attempted to address this issue in a post on the game’s official news page. stopping the launch of the game on some users’ consoles, Yamauchi offered a rationale for the steep reduction in race payouts.
“In GT7, I would like users to enjoy lots of cars and races, even without microtransactions,” he wrote. “At the same time, the price of cars is an important element that conveys their value and rarity, so I think it’s important that it is linked to real world prices. I want to make GT7 a game where you You will be able to enjoy a variety of cars in different ways, and if possible, I would like to try to avoid a situation where a player has to mechanically keep replaying certain events over and over.”
In a vacuum, this post would probably be a pretty decent summary of the balance issues that designers encounter when designing in-game economies, and the inevitable tension that arises between wanting to leave players with valuable rewards to pursue and creating a game where players are encouraged to play in the most fun rather than efficient way.
The thing is, Gran Turismo 7 isn’t really that kind of game, and these economic changes actually make the problem worse rather than better. But the problem is deeper rooted than any specific payment schedule: it’s the whole structure of the economy around the game’s most valuable cars: time-limited availability, artificial scarcity, huge cost involved, and the fact that GT7 is always happy to snatch a $20 bill to give away a small bundle of credits.
It doesn’t look like a small package at first. After our producer Ricardo spent the last of my money spinning a VW bus on a stream, I relented and took the option to “top up” my credits by spending $20 in the PlayStation store. In exchange I received 2M Cr. in-game, which was a bit of an extra payment because I was buying in bulk. But let’s go with this exchange rate: 1 USD equals 100,000 Cr.
Let’s put this into context: one of my “daily reward” roulette spins shocked me by not giving me the most modest 5,000 cr. reward and instead gave me a limited time “invitation” to buy exclusive cars from Ferrari. So I headed to Brand Central to see what I had been asked to buy and found three advanced Ferraris, the cheapest of which was selling for Cr1.6m.
This week, the Gran Turismo Reddit community looked with grim irony on one of the cars available in the game’s “legendary” car auction house, where historically significant or iconic cars are sold (as opposed to humble bids from the used car dealership or new vehicles for sale on Brand Central). Gran Turismo 7 sells a McLaren for 18.5 million Cr. Or around US$185 if you just wanted to pay cash. Another popular thread is filled with frustrated gamers discussing what would happen if GT7 players refused to buy game credits en masse.
In the end, people were cringing because GT7 is crossed by decisions to highlight rare collector cars whose prices demand a tonne race victories to afford. If Polyphony was concerned that people would end up ruining their own in-game experience through repetition, the solution was probably to create an easier and faster progression curve so that people working on the coolest cars in the game playing the way they liked.
But let me tell you how it works for me: last week I spent $20, right? Put 2M Cr. directly to my bank account. I’ve played a bunch since then and made my way through a really tough streak run whose power level restrictions were giving me fits…and after all, I’ve got 1.9m Cr. Because throughout this week of racing I spent money on more upgrades that gave me more configuration flexibility, and it’s very easy to spend 100,000 Cr. on the full suite of optional components.
I would have broken even after all the upgrades except I picked up a cheap Corvette Stingray at auction for around 120,000 Cr. So basically I played a parcel of GT7 in a week, doing my own thing my way, and I’m not really one step closer to those mid-range Ferraris I’ve been asked to buy. This McLaren F1? This will literally never happen if I keep playing the game organically and don’t invest more money. Oh and forget to convert one of my least loved cars back into credits: in GT7 you can buy, but you certainly can’t sell, which pokes fun at Yamauchi’s stated desire to have the game’s economy reflect real market dynamics.
The economy of GT7 endgame sours the conversation around a great game. And it’s still a great game: I spent the weekend racing 600 and 700 performance points and getting incredibly tight with a BMW M-class vintage that I turned into a general purpose fairway shredding machine, rain or shine. Between the green flag and the checkered flag, GT7 is magical, with incredibly detailed commentary and nuanced handling. Playing it is a reward in itself if there were no “hypercars” or prototype class cars in the game at all, I would still say it’s one of the best racing games in ages years. But they are in the game. GT7 really wants me to know they are in the game and repeatedly tries to get my attention and interest in their direction. I bet with this handling pattern they are a blast to ride. It’s just a shame that they’re also one of the worst bargains in gaming, part of a game economy that’s increasingly the worst-case scenario for which microtransactions would lead to game design.
Yamauchi closed his note to the community saying, “We will inform you in time about update plans for additional content, additional racing events and additional features that will constructively solve this problem. It hurts me to not be able to explain details about this at the moment, but we plan to keep revising GT7 so that as many players as possible can enjoy the game. We would really appreciate it if anyone could monitor the growth of Gran Turismo 7 from a longer-term point of view.
It’s a fair request. There is only one problem: GT7 it’s less than a month old, and nothing that’s happened since launch is going in the right direction. If we just extrapolate from the game’s trajectory over the past few weeks, we can anticipate that Sony will allow you to buy cars on viaticum settlements around this time next year. If that happens, just hope you time out before the game’s servers.