Gran Turismo 7 exemplifies the craziness of always-online games
Gran Turismo 7 is perhaps 2022’s best racing game yet, and easily a top contender for game of the year. With its wide variety of cars, tight gameplay, and extensive customization options, it’s exactly what longtime fans have wanted and accessible enough for newcomers.
There is only one problem: on March 17, no one could play it, even if they wanted to play offline. Gran Turismo 7 is only two weeks old, and its always-online requirement is already suffocating it.
Some background info: Yesterday (March 17) the GT7 servers went down and stayed down for the next 30 hours. Naturally, this meant that players could not access online play. However, since the game has an always-online requirement, even in single-player modes, this also meant no one could play at all. People who were in the middle of the races lost their progress; others couldn’t start the game at all.
For more on the situation, check out the latest article on the official Gran Turismo website. Kazunori Yamauchi, CEO of Polyphony Studios (developer of GT7), has issued a clear and informative apology for the game’s extended downtime.
“Immediately prior to the release of Update 1.07, we discovered an issue where the game was not starting correctly in some cases on product versions for PS4 and PS5,” Yamauchi wrote. “This was a rare issue that was not observed during development hardware testing or pre-release QA sessions, but in order to prioritize the safety of save game data. users, we have decided to discontinue the 1.07 update and make a patch update to 1.08. This is the reason for the delay.”
Yamauchi goes on to explain how patch 1.08 also rebalances the cost of in-game cars and how quickly users can earn credits. In short, high-end cars are now more expensive, which makes microtransactions in games more tempting, even for casual gamers.
Microtransactions and always-on requirements are baffling decisions for a full-priced game from a major developer. GT7 has already sold remarkably well, and as the PS5’s first racing title, that shouldn’t change anytime soon. By forcing players to be online at all times and putting vehicles out of their reach unless they buy expensive microtransactions, Sony is essentially denying players the features they should expect from a 60 game. $.
Always-on requirements are unavoidable in some games: massively multiplayer online games or competitive esports titles, for example. But GT7 has a strong solo component. Forcing users to maintain a constant connection isn’t just cumbersome – it’s arguably wasteful, for gamers on capped data plans, or even prohibitive, for gamers who don’t have stable connections.
Admittedly, the single-player and multiplayer components of GT7 don’t have a sharp line between them, as the perks you gain from one transfer to the next. But regular maintenance is a part of any online game, and it might not be the last time it goes longer than expected. That’s enough for GT7 players to wonder what might happen next maintenance cycle – or if the whole game might ever go offline, single-player components and all.
Remember: This is the series that inspired PlayStation boss Jim Ryan to wonder aloud, “Why would anyone play this?” on the old entries. Game preservation has to start somewhere, and it might as well start as soon as a game launches.