What To Do With Polyphony Digital?

Let's play a game. Imagine you are not you. You are, instead, Sony Computer Entertainment boss Kaz Hirai. And you have a dilemma on your hands.

See, you are part of a massive corporation that for years now has been bleeding money. Meaning across the board, Sony has had to cut costs, trim the fat and find more competitive ways of doing business. Sony Computer Entertainment itself is not excused from this, as witnessed by the "slimming down" of the PlayStation 3 in 2009.

Now imagine that, with hardware sales finally beginning to show signs of sustained success, you shift your focus to the software side of things. To Sony's development studios. See how they're all shaping up, whether any fat can be trimmed from there (remember, this is hypothetical; to the best of our knowledge, Hirai isn't actually doing this).

You don't get very far down your list before you hit Polyphony Digital, developers of the Gran Turismo series. Where there are, next to the polite list of "pros", several large bullet-points in the "cons" section, all of them in very red pen.

No console Gran Turismo since 2004. A PlayStation Portable game that went from system-seller to vapourware to disappointment. A single game (Gran Turismo 5) that has been almost six years in development, has cost a reported $US60 million (and counting!) and has just been delayed. Again.

As a man who has a long history with the PlayStation brand, you may think Polyphony is untouchable. That the studio is inseparable from the glory days of the company's gaming division. That regardless of how long Polyphony spends finishing it or how much money is sunk into Gran Turismo 5, it will be a successful game. That its hard-line realism and gorgeous graphics will serve as the ultimate showcase for the PlayStation 3.

Then again, you are, at the end of the day, a man with a business to run and a bottom line to think about. You're aware that the driving sim is a genre in decline. That those titles remaining in the field have reacted to this and now focus on the raw thrills of driving, rather than the tedium required to master a simulation. And you are reminded that Gran Turismo's only real competition, the Forza series, has managed three full (and reasonably successful) titles in the time it's taken Polyphony to release barely half a game (Gran Turismo 5: Prologue).

Consider all of the above, and answer this: how much longer do you keep giving these people money to sit around perfecting door-knob models and hard-road suspensions? As much time as they need? Or do you focus on the present and cut them loose?


Comments

    Repackage the portable version as "GT5" and just pretend that it sucks then christen the supposed "GT5" to be "GT6" and smack the copies on gamers' faces.

    Luke Plunkett be afraid.. be VERY afraid.

    I spent more time on Gran Turismo 5 prologue than I have on any other of my PS3 games.. ! ... and half a game? get half a brain!! ...

      Half a game is fair.

      The amount of content, VS the usual expected level of content, was tiny.

      The online component was very bare bones and underdeveloped.

      At least he's not calling it a Demo like most idiots enjoy doing.

    http://www.gtpla.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/gt501.jpg

    BOOM! goes the dynamite ... !! I am hopeful the game will be released in march ... in japan! ... ? hopefully july for where I am.

      Fracture FTW! That screenshot is HEAVY..!!!

      I don't even play any other driving games, with the exception of GT... its crazy to wait this long but the game should be awesome

    You have to remember though that despite the high cost for developing GT5, PD has released GT5:P which has sold over 3 million copies. That alone should cover the development costs of the game. (though i do agree that Kaz may need to talk to PD about them receiving some deadlines for development)

      Demanding deadlines is what Microsoft does, and its what Turn 10 and the late FASA have critisised as anti-developer culture.

        Unfortunately the games industry is a business. Demanding tight or unrealistic deadline, ie. holiday season, can be disastorous for a game, but it still is a business, these games need to be finished. You can not make the perfect game, you build the best game you can in a reasonable time, and then give it to the masses and see what they think.

        The biggest problem with the games industry is that games slip all the time, and often for little pereived benefit. The other point is to do with Forza getting out 3 full games during Gran Turismos development. Turn 10 have the advantage because they've released a good game, and then they get the feedback, they can go back, iterate on the design and release another good game, and do it all over again, in the same time. They are building up the brand, and they're not wasting time while doing it.

    I'd cut whatever cars aren't ready, release them later as free DLC if required.

    I honestly agree with this. They would be bleeding alot of money and they only basically made the Gran Turismo series. Tourist Trophy was... generally unnoticed. They should come up with some new games or they will be thrown out.

    The highest selling game for PS1 was Gran Turismo at over 10 mil, with GT2 in third at about 9 mil.

    The second highest selling game for the PS2 was GT3 at over 14 mil, with GT4 in third place with over 10 million.

    The best selling game sop far for the PS3 is GT5:P, with over 4mil copies sold.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_video_games#PlayStation

    If GT5 was simply GT5:P with more content, it would probably be a success.

    But, with the huge competition now around (i.e forza), I think that PD are really trying to make the best game that they possibly can, and if nothing else, delaying the game to improve quality will help improve their reputation of high quality.

    Besides, if they want to MATCH the performance of their earlier games, they will need to sell GT5 to about 1/3 of the PS3 user-base worldwide, which is not a trivial feat.

    I am sure nearly all of the cars that are to be included in this game are probably complete (with a few exceptions) !

    it is likely the game engine itself and (mostly) the tracks that are being fine-tweaked (lighting conditions maybe weather? rain implementations/experiments.. draw distance & fogging etc) ...

    considering how "anal" .. yamauchi san is .... for the average gamer maybe they will not get much out of GT5 besides pretty visuals .. for sure I know I will be stuck on my PS3 for a very long time to come :D

    to be honest.. to enjoy GT to its fullest extent you really must need to be a car person!!!

    3 simple words.... "Duke Nukem Forever..."

    hey? hey? Think about it...

      Was thinking the exact same thing.
      Just keep pushing for the unreachable perfect game and we have seen where that gets you...

    The problem with Polyphony Digital is that they seem to lack focus. Everytime you hear news about Gran Tursimo, it's always them talking about adding additional features. It's like, "oh yeah we're going to add damage", and then a few months later, "yeah we're going to add 3d now".

    All the features for the game should have been decided way back in the planning phase, like 6 years ago. They shouldn't be changing the goal posts for themselves every couple of weeks, it's bad for the deadline and it's inefficient, and morale draining for all the programmers. Every couple of weeks the programmers are probably like "awesome, now I have to go back redo this because of this stupid new feature, I love my job".

    Define the goal, and then work towards the goal, is what they should be doing. Sony should be applying the smack down too. Demand it be finished by "X" date, no excuses, no extensions.

    We've had Prologue, a psp version, and 2 Demos for this game. Since 2005's GT4.

    But Remedy Entertainment hasn't put out anything since 2003's Max Payne 2. Alan Wake was announced in 2005, and after many delays is still waiting to be released. And it's being published my Microsoft! In fact in that time, they've downscaled their goals by cancelling the PC version of the game.

    But everyone rags on Polyphony about GT5 any time their game is mentioned. But 'journos' are just happy to relay any news about Alan Wake without all the snide comments.

    Now you could say they're different types of games but there's been 2 Gears of Wars, and 2 Uncharted's in that time.

    So why the double standards?

    Whatever they decide to do with Polyphony it'd be nice if they started working on a sequel to Motortoon GP as soon as GT is done.

    The originals of which are still more fun than any of the GT games for me.

    i think sony needs to cut Kaz loose. He was a considered a genius when GT released and for the subsequent latter versions but only when there was no competition on the market.

    The Forza franchise has upped the benchmark for console sims, and given the years of dev time, delays, and unconfirmed features, it's apparent the GT franchise is having a very hard time meeting Forza's standards.

    Turn 10 has proven it's possible to deliver a very high quality console sim, with more features than other console sim games, and in less time, thusly increasing the chances of a solid ROI and reducing risk.

    Until Kaz can learn to do it faster and better (as seen in Forza games), the risk is too great for Sony to sustain. However, I doubt Sony will ever cut them loose as they are of the old mindset that "the name sells games". Unfortunately at $60 each, on the most expensive console, this idea is risky to say the least.

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