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How Your Favorite Racing Games Help Automakers | WheelHouse

September 11, 2019


(mellow techno music) – Forza Horizon 4 dropped a few weeks ago, and I’ve been playing
it pretty much nonstop. But there’s something weird going on. While the game’s roster of nearly 450 cars is all well and good, there’s
one glaring brand omission. To the dismay of fans all over the world, Toyota decided they didn’t want
their cars in Forza Horizon. This on Wheelhouse,
we’re gonna find out why. I think for a lot of us, video games are a huge
reason why we’re into cars. Some of my favorite cars to this day are ones that I remember
driving with a controller. The Evo 6 in Gran Turismo 2, the Ferrari 512 in Cruisin’ USA, team Team Oreca Viper in Gran Turismo 3, the Dodge Charger in Midnight Club 3. The list goes on. Racing games are many people’s first tiny step into the car world. Also, big shout out to Midnight Club 3. Best soundtrack of all time. If you know, you know. ♪ House real big ♪ ♪ Cars real big ♪ ♪ Belly real big ♪ ♪ Everything real big ♪ – But before we talk about
Toyota, we need a little context. Racing games have come a long, long way. The first racer ever
was called Gran Trak 10, by Atari, released in 1974. This was before gaming consoles. You actually had to go
out into the real world and play it at an arcade. I know, it’s terrifying. They didn’t even have Discord back then. The cabinet itself
weighed around 400 pounds and contained a real steering
wheel and gear shifter. Pretty ahead of its
times, for the mid-’70s. Pole Position featured a
somewhat accurate version of Fuji Speedway, over in Japan. What really set Pole Position apart was the third person view behind the car, which would be the standard to this day. Because the game inspired
so many imitators, many video game historians
call Pole Position one of the most influential
video games ever made. One of the first games
to use a licensed vehicle was Outrun, developed by Sega in 1986. And this is where car brands started seeing the possibilities of linking the virtual world to the real one. Players drove a Ferrari Testarossa Spider, which for the time, looked
amazingly realistic, and was definitely a Ferrari because it had a pixelated
prancing horse badge on the back. The game’s designer, Yu Suzuki, said he drew a lot of
inspiration for Outrun from a long trip to Europe, where he just drove around for two weeks. That sounds nice. (engine revving) (laughing) The game was a huge hit, and inspired another Japanese company
to make their own game chock-full of real-world cars. In the early ’90s, Poly’s Entertainment was a development group within Sony, focused on making games for company’s latest home entertainment
system, the PlayStation. They didn’t call it the PlayStation One, because they didn’t know there
were gonna be three more. Kinda like how people didn’t know there was going to be a World War II, and that the the Great War was gonna last more than two weeks. Anyway, Poly’s had released two games in their Motor Toon Gran Prix series, a cart racer that took
a lot of inspiration from the Mario Kart series,
and what I can only guess were some seriously
righteous hallucinogens. In spite of the
strangeness, critics praised the Karts’ handling, because they felt a little more real than
what people were used to. It turns out, Poly’s what about to give people more of that feeling. A lot more. In 1997, Poly’s Entertainment
released the game that would forever change
the course of the company, and racing game history as a whole. Gran Turismo was in
development for five years, and was a huge hit when
it finally released. Critics and players alike
praised Gran Turismo for its hyper-realistic
graphics, driving physics, and stacked real-life car roster. Gran Turismo featured 140
cars from 11 manufacturers. That’s really impressive
when you think about it. Even today, large companies don’t really come together on a lot of things, unless they own each other. And here’s this little
game, published by Sony, with tons of real cars
people actually know. That probably felt a
little ahead of its time for everyone involved. In 16 years, Gran Turismo One sold nearly 11 million copies, making it the best selling original
PlayStation game ever made, and that’s just the first installment! But don’t think that they
didn’t have any competition. Electronic Arts had
released The Need for Speed for the Panasonic 3DO in 1994, which also featured real-world handling. But the car roster was tiny by
comparison to Gran Turismo’s. However, the Need for Speed series had something Gran Turismo didn’t: cops. (hard rock music) In the head-to-head mode,
player didn’t just have to beat the other driver, they
also had to dodge traffic, as well as get away fro Five-Oh. Players freaking loved this,
and the police became a staple for the Need for Speed series. But the Fuzz wasn’t the only thing Need for Speed had over Gran Turismo. Need for Speed also had Porsche. So the way licensing
works for video games, is that developers and publishers have to pay companies to use their likenesses and
logos inside the game. Otherwise, you’re probably gonna get sued. When EA was developing Need
for Speed: Porsche Unleashed, they very wisely worded the contract so they would be the sole developers with the right to use Porsche
branding in their games. If you wanted to drive a
Porsche from your couch, you needed to buy Need for Speed. While this might have
been a big disadvantage for other racing games, there were some unexpected benefits for other brands. R-U-F, or “Roof”? “Roof”? I’ll say “roof”.
♪ Who let the dog’s out? ♪ ♪ Woof, woof, woof, woof. ♪
– RUF? RUF? RUF? RUF? RUF was a German auto manufacturer that had been building their own Porsche-inspired sports
cars since the mid-’70s. At first, the company
would tune up Porsche 911’s and then sell them. But then they started
buying what are called “bodies in white,” directly from Porsche. These are assembled chassis, without any other components on board. RUF would then take these bodies in white and finish the cars with
parts of their own design. This officially made
RUF its own manufacturer in the eyes of the German government, completely independent from Porsche. Soon after the EA/Porsche deal, developers, including Polyphany Digital, figured out how they could get cars that looked like Porsches in their game, without actually having
Porsches in their games. See where this is going? They might not have been real Porsches, but they looked the part. And for 95% of players, myself included, that was good enough for them. Because of EA’s exclusive
deal with Porsche, gamers around the world know who RUF is. Fortunately for us, maybe
unfortunately for RUF, EA’s deal with Porsche expired in 2016, and pretty much immediately, Porsches were showing up in games like Forza, Gran Turismo, and Assetto Corsa. And like that, developers no
longer need the RUF workaround. So, Toyota, what’s going on with them? Like I said at the beginning, they recently and quite abruptly stopped letting studios
use their cars in games. Gaming site Kotaku
reported on an editorial in a Japanese newspaper,
connecting the slide in Japan’s car sales, to
the rise of video games. The editorial even quotes
a Toyota exec as saying, “Home game machines are no good. “Playing something that realistic “makes the needs for cars disappear.” I’m sorry, what? If anything, driving a
virtual Toyota in Forza would make me want a
real Toyota even more! So, are there any other hints? There’s been some speculation that, since Toyota has only one
sports car in their lineup, the 86, that they don’t feel that product placement is worth it. On top of that, most every other Toyota people want in their games are old models, like the MR2, Celica,
the AE86, and the Supra. Toyota might feel that if
all the cars gamers see are old, then gamers might think the Toyota brand has fallen off. And that’s not a good look. As a counterpoint, though, there are plenty of brands with mostly
old lineups in racing games, so that argument doesn’t
really work for me. I think it’s worth remembering that, while it may not make sense for us fans, Toyota doesn’t have any obligation to put their cars in our games. Big companies make weird
decisions all the time, and they don’t have to tell us why. So for now, it remains a mystery. And it’s possible that
Toyota will miss out on gaining some younger fans. But Toyota, I swear to god. If the new Supra isn’t in Forza
next year, after the launch, we’re all gonna riot. We know where you live. Hey, we have a subreddit on Reddit now. I’m a moderator. R/donutmedia. Come check it out, come subscribe. We look at the weird car
stories that affect you, every week, here on Wheelhouse. So hit that yellow subscribe
button right there. I mentioned the AE86,
check out this episode of Up to Speed on it. Check out this episode of Wheelhouse. Be nice, I’ll see you next time.

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