Gran Turismo 7 screenshot

Why the Gran Turismo 7 backlash should make EA think twice about microtransactions in F1 2022

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The sun has barely set on March and yet Gran Turismo 7 could very probably remain the single biggest racing game release of 2022.

But despite topping the UK and Japanese box games sales during launch week and earning nines and tens in reviews from some of gaming’s most respected media outlets – although not from RaceFans – March was perhaps the most challenging month developers Polyphony Digital have ever endured throughout 25 years of the seminal Sony racing franchise. All because of how the £69.99 game pushes players towards microtransactions.

Putting aside general gameplay grumbles about the single player café mode, the lack of dedicated races for Group 2 (Super GT) and Group 1 cars (LMP1 and hypercars), there’s one major complaint with GT7 that players have been so vocal about that it has become one of the biggest gaming stories of the year so far: its controversial in-game economy.

As EA Sports – pioneers of the lucrative Ultimate Team mode – prepare to unveil Codemasters’ F1 2022 to the world, there’s been no indication yet that the new game could feature more microtransactions than before. So will the furore over GT7 act as a cautionary tale for EA, given the gaming giant’s love of building their other major sports games around buying in-game currency with real life cash?

GT7’s economy leads to player protests

Gran Turismo has always had a central loop at its core: buying (or winning) cars, tuning them up and racing them. In GT7, most cars have a reasonable asking price. Fancy supercars like the Honda NSX cost a couple of hundred thousand credits, purpose built GT3-spec race cars will cost you just under half a million, while thoroughbred racing prototypes like the Toyota TS050 LMP1 car or a Super Formula single seater demand an even million for the right to own.

Gran Turismo 7 screenshot
A McLaren F1 costs 18,500,000 in-game credits
However, not all cars are available to purchase at will. Some older models are locked behind the ‘used car dealership’ where only a selection of cars are available at any one time and rotate throughout the week. High-end luxury cars like the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 or the Lamborghini Veneno even require players to win an exclusive invitation, earned at random, to be allowed to buy them in the first place.

On top of this, the handful of special historic cars that the game consider the most desirable – like the Le Mans winning Mazda 787B or the GT500-spec, Castrol-liveried Toyota Supra – are limited to the ‘Legend Cars’ dealership, an exclusive showroom where specific models can reach eye-watering prices of over 10 million credits in some cases.

This seems perfectly reasonable, as you’d likely assume the game’s reward system will be designed in such a way where these legendary cars act as the ultimate reward for investing your time in playing and progressing through the game. Sadly, that is far from the case.

While GT7 practically trips over itself to throw prize cars at players through the main café campaign, once that’s over, there’s virtually no effective means of earning big money by playing the game alone. You can redo the later championships and earn around 400,000 credits for completing the GT World Championship, but that will take you around an hour at least to do.

Soon after release, players calculated the most efficient way to earn credits was to complete one specific rally race in the game over and over again, earning 97,000 credits roughly every four minutes of game time. With around 50 minutes of grinding the same racing event non-stop, players could earn around one million credits – still far short of the 18,500,000 asking price for the McLaren F1 road car.

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Then, following a more than 30 hour server outage that prevented anyone who owned the game from playing the core single player mode, Polyphony Digital released a patch for GT7 that “adjusted” many of the reward payouts for events in the game – including more than halving the base rewards for the most lucrative rally event players had been monotonously grinding the week prior.

Gran Turismo 7 screenshot
The most desirable cars require an invite to buy
Now, players could only earn a maximum of 52,500 credits, meaning it would take over an hour to even get close to a million credits. And to save up the 18 million needed for a McLaren F1 would require a time investment far beyond what your average player would be willing to make, just for the right to drive a single car.

But if players do not want to spend their time grinding their way to earning these legendary cars, they do have a much faster method – microtransactions.

Unlike with GT Sport, GT7’s predecessor, where players could simply cough up £2.49 to immediately buy any single car they wanted, only credits can be purchased with real world money in this latest edition. A pack of 100,000 credits can be bought for just £1.99, with the maximum amount of two million credits costing £15.99. To buy the 18.5M credit McLaren F1, players would have to shell out the equivalent of £147.91 of microtransactions to buy the game – over twice the price of the entire game itself on release.

Gran Turismo creator and Polyphony Digital president Kazunori Yamauchi explained his team’s logic behind the move in an open letter to the player base after the patch released, explaining that “the pricing of cars is an important element that conveys their value and rarity,” and so he believed that it was “important for it to be linked with the real world prices.

“I want to make GT7 a game in which you can enjoy a variety of cars lots of different ways and if possible would like to try to avoid a situation where a player must mechanically keep replaying certain events over and over again,” Yamauchi continued, promising to add additional racing events to the game over time.

Gran Turismo 7 screenshot
Even a full 24 hour race earns a paltry reward
The Gran Turismo player base did not seem to take kindly to this explanation. Some owners requested a refund from Sony of their digital copies and were granted one – even despite logging many hours of play time. The game was review-bombed on review site Metacritic, with hundreds of users posting 0/10 review scores to tank the game’s average user review score, making GT7 the lowest rated first-party Sony game in the site’s history.

In response to the outrage, Yamauchi later announced that GT7 would receive multiple content updates beginning in early April, increasing race rewards, adding hour-long endurance races into the game with larger payouts, adding more cars to the limited rotation and giving players the ability to sell their unwanted cars for credits in the future. It’s a welcome first step in what is hoped will be a long lifespan for GT7, but whether it is enough to gain back goodwill from the players remains to be seen.

EA Sports and the Ultimate Team formula

With such a visceral player backlash against microtransactions in a full priced racing game as big as Gran Turismo, there’s plenty for EA Sports – the publishers of the official F1 game developed by Codemasters – to think about as F1 2022 heads into a crucial stage of development.

From the moment EA first announced they would buy the British studio a year ago, players have not been shy with their concerns about how the publishing giant might try and monetise the F1 franchise. At the heart of these worries lies the fact that EA Sports pioneered the divisive ‘Ultimate Team’ concept across its FIFA football, Madden NFL and NHL games, enjoyed by millions of players but maligned by perhaps just as many critics of the mode.

FIFA 22 Ultimate Team
Ultimate Team is akin to virtual trading cards
At its core, Ultimate Team works similarly to a trading card game. Players earn and trade packs of cards representing real life sports stars on the field, which they can then use in their in-game team. Over time, players fight to earn the most prestigious and top rated cards – such as Ronaldo in FIFA or Aaron Donald in Madden – to make the strongest possible team to compete against the squads of other players online in competitions.

While users can earn highly desired players through playing the game itself, they can also take a shortcut by buying in-game booster packs, giving them a random assortment of players set to specific rarity odds, with actual money. With some players spending hundreds and even thousands of pounds each year in the mode, it’s no wonder why Ultimate Team has become the mode that receives the most attention with each new instalment of an EA Sports title.

To say it’s a lucrative business for EA is to massively undersell how much of a money maker the mode has become, with Ultimate Team modes accounting for almost 30% of EA’s overall revenue during financial year 2021. That’s almost a third of the entire revenue generated by Electronic Arts – a publisher that boasts Star Wars, The Sims and other incredibly popular properties under the umbrella.

Currently, the F1 game does not have an Ultimate Team equivalent mode. Instead, F1 2021 features the ‘Podium Pass’ – inspired by the battle pass system used in popular shooters like Call of Duty and Fortnite. The Podium Pass gives players 30 tiers of cosmetic content – such as liveries, helmet and racing suit designs, podium victory animations and more – to unlock every few months by playing the game. There are two tiers to the unlockable content. The ‘free’ tier has a basic selection of items and does not provide rewards for every level unlocked. If players purchase access to the ‘VIP’ tier using in-game Pitcoin currency, they gain access to unlock all the rewards available in the free tier, plus a range of more desirable items unlocked at each level up to the maximum.

The rewards offered by the Podium Pass may be purely cosmetic, but they have their critics. Most recently, the last two series of the Podium Pass have featured almost exclusively items inspired by content creators who regularly play and stream the F1 game on their YouTube and Twitch channels, such as tiametmarduk, Aarava and Pieface23. If you aren’t a fan of Pieface23’s particular brand of streaming humour or the “absolute scenes” regularly found in Aarava’s F1 game videos, there’s not much likely to appeal to you in the most recent series of the Podium Pass.

F1 2021 screenshot
Players can unlock cosmetics in the Podium Pass
Unlike in Gran Turismo, players can earn enough Pitcoins through unlocking tiers in the VIP tier of the Podium Pass to unlock the following series without any further microtransactions. If a player buys the deluxe edition of the game at launch, they receive enough Pitcoin to buy the VIP tier for the first Podium Pass series of the game – theoretically meaning that a player who buys the deluxe edition of F1 2021 can unlock everything in each Podium Pass series without ever needing to spend a single penny on microtransactions.

As F1 2022 will be the first entry of Codemasters’ long-running official F1 franchise to be released after having its full development cycle under the ownership of EA Sports, fans of the game are cautious about how much this year’s entry may differ from those before it – especially when it comes to monetisation. However, at this stage, there has been zero official indication from either EA or Codemasters that F1 2022 will take any different approach to microtransactions. EA CEO Andrew House also said the publisher would allow Codemasters to “continue to be who they are” under their ownership in an interview with MCV, raising hopes that future games will not push microtransactions as a core element of their design.

With official news about the newest upcoming edition the official F1 game expected in the near future, it seems that those who have been nervous about what EA’s ownership of Codemasters could mean for the game will soon see if their fears will be realised. Hopefully, when F1 2022 is released, it will avoid unnecessarily upsetting its core player base as Polyphony Digital appear to have done with GT7.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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  • 33 comments on “Why the Gran Turismo 7 backlash should make EA think twice about microtransactions in F1 2022”

    1. EA is so far beyond caring about backlash that it’s not even funny.

      They haven’t found a single monetization option they haven’t liked and gleefully implemented in their wares, either.

      Looking forward to “buying” an F1 game that allows sampling three tracks in a Williams, with everything else locked behind a paywall with a nice full-time-job-worthy grind path to ensure an appropriate level of recurring revenues.

      1. Hmmm, it’s not true that EA are immune to backlash. You may be forgetting: https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/14/16648218/star-wars-battlefront-2-ea-loot-crates-explained

        EA have been bitten by microtransactions before, they know that not every audience is going to be receptive. And I can’t really see them paywalling parts of the core game, perhaps players could earn/buy “unlockables” that apply upgrades in career mode or something like that, but that seems pretty harmless.

        1. Ah, that’s why no game published by EA since the fall of 2017 had loot boxes? Or micro-transactions? Or game mechanics specifically tweaked to minimize any potential joy experienced by the person playing the part of the game they unlocked by their original purchase?

          It’s always gradual. First, it’s just cosmetics. Then it’s grind-reducers. Then you get special power-ups for your car. And then you find yourself grinding >50% races at Imola in a Williams trying to unlock the special, beautiful, longingly-quick Aston Martin you’ve always dreamed of because you wanted to finish in 18th for once.

          1. What are you even talking about? Have you even played an EA game? For their sports games, the microtransactions are tied to one mode. Don’t play it and you’re fine.

            They’ve never locked the ability to do any sort of franchise mode or use any current team and all their players behind a paywall and they never will because that would be absurd. Microtransactions are real easy to ignore.

    2. I’ve never had a skill with these games, driving with a controller doesn’t compute. I do understand the hate for micro-transactions. I see them all the time in my son’s games. Charge me for the game and let me play, not the constant request for more payments.

      I have a feeling micro-transactions will be much like the fight over pinball,when it went from 5 balls to 3 balls. He who owns the gold mine makes the rules.

      1. This trend will remain as long as people pay so their kids could buy in-game costumes and similar worthy content. It’s as simple as that. I don’t care about such games (casual arcade racing, FIFA and such), but I’m more worried about what kind of people our children will be growing into. They used to ask for money to buy a chocolate, a toy, a ticket to watch a football match or perhaps a new guitar or something else hobby-related. Microtransactions? Things are getting hilarious. And more kids get to spend money in such a stupid way, more peer pressure there will be on the rest of kids to do the same.

        1. Yeah. How dare kids of a new generation have different interests and not want to spend money on exactly what I did as a kid.

    3. It is fun to think about social media complaints as something that matters, but ultimately it does not. Enough people will still buy the game and still buy the expensive DLC to earn Sony a boatload of cash and that is that.

      EA will continue to expand on their DLC and gacha mechanics, as they do for all of their games, because EA likes money more than creating a better gaming experience for their customers. Thinking otherwise is wishful thinking, nothing more.

    4. I am a gamer.
      Tens of thousands of hours played across many platforms since buying a ZX 81 in 1982. (you can find me on Steam ;) )

      I have purchased and enjoyed games from the EA stable but I have always been awake to the reality.

      EA = Extreme Avarice. They are in it to make money. Not to make good games

      1. I mean……most huge publically traded companies are there for the same reason? They aren’t a charity and modern AAA games are not cheap to make.

        Mind you, I don’t agree with their agressive tactics either (mainly lootboxes) and feel their balance is off. But I don’t think going into a business to make money in itself is wrong.

        1. I agree @yaru that there is nothing wrong in trying to make a profit.
          We all need money in order to survive I would say.
          I am genuinely grateful to all the Devs and Software houses that keep me amused.

          but to specifically design a product to encourage addictive personalities to spend more than they can afford is on the same level as a drug dealer.
          I personally feel that this is what EA does.
          They target the obsessives.

    5. I’m certainly in the minority here, but my problems with GT7 aren’t micro-transactions (though how things like loot boxes / gambling are allowed in games is beyond me, especially when they’re targeting minors).

      I don’t really play in a competitive way, I play to relax and zone out, I’ll turn the Playstation on, put the radio on and just chill for an hour or two, I probably look like a zombie, I decided to do all the licenses first, I had my Super License before I’d ever entered a race. I’m not particularly interested in last lap, last corner dive bombs. I’m quite happy just driving lap after lap around La Sarthe trying different braking points. I probably sounds like the most boring person in the world, but I don’t care if it’s not a McLaren F1 just so long as it’s reasonably quick and not a Mini Cooper.

      My issues with the game is why nearly always a rolling start with me in last? It’s not a race, it’s just a chase to try and catch the leader before the chequered flag. That is not how motorsport works. And i’m relieved that they’re introducing the ability to sell cars, I don’t want 3 Ferrari’s from 04′, 07′ and 09′. I can’t even give them away, they just sit there as if they’re owned by a Sheikh somewhere.

      1. @bernasaurus

        I’m not particularly interested in last lap, last corner dive bombs. I’m quite happy just driving lap after lap around La Sarthe trying different braking points. I probably sounds like the most boring person in the world, but I don’t care if it’s not a McLaren F1 just so long as it’s reasonably quick and not a Mini Cooper.

        You are not alone.

        I cannot tell you the hours I spent in GT Sport just doing time trials in VR mode. The feeling of sitting in an actual cockpit is incredibly immersive.

        I am sincerely hopeful that GT7 will eventually get PSVR2 integration beyond that which GT Sport had. That could make it worth the price of admission alone to me.

      2. A lot of people share your dislike of rolling starts just that they think the micros are a bigger issue.

      3. Totally agree. That’s why these more arcade focussed games don’t appeal to me. I don’t want a 3 lap race to unlock credits to “buy” a car. I just want make really good driving simulation, a bunch of car & track combinations to try and something that tracks my fastest lap.

        I’ll do the occasional race for a bit of fun but mainly, it’s just driving and trying to improve my lap times.

        I’ve found AMS2 is perfect for this. If I want to race, the AI are pretty decent and as it’s not as popular with kids, you can have a decent online race without people driving around the wrong way and others ramming you of the track if you try to overtake like on the F1 game.

        1. Yeah was also gonna mention AMS2 ahem ahem new content on the way cough cough.

          Gotta do the company promotion lol!

    6. It’s not going to be an issue. Haven’t people enjoyed the battle pass in the past few games?

      F1 isn’t about collecting anything so there’s no way to have problematic microtransactions like GT7 and I don’t really see anyway they can turn it into a card game. There’s no way to stain the game with microtransactions any more than they already have with the battle pass.

      I think microtransactions/DLC could actually improve the game. I’d pay a few bucks if they added more classics drivers and tracks throughout the year.

      1. I think you underestimate EA…. The budget to make the game will be slashed big time and anything that can become a microtransaction will become one.

        1. You can keep making things up if you want, but that’s not reality. That’s the usual internet hyperbolic rage over everything.

          1. @hunkulese – So you’re suggesting games like FIFA and Madden (their two biggest sellers) get decent updates each year? They don’t leave things like career mode (and other aspects of the game that don’t rake in money) untouched for years at a time?

            1. That wasn’t the point you were making, but yeah, I think FIFA’s updates every year justify the purchase. I don’t touch Ultimate Team or play Madden. It also has nothing to with microtransactions. People have been complaining about minimal updates every year since long before we could even play the games online. There’s only so much you can do when you’re asked to churn out a game in 8 months.

    7. meh. as much as microtransactions are cancer and should be out of pc/console games for good, I don’t blame the hight pricing in credit money of the ultimate achievements. in the end you can enjoy the game with the smaller cars. ultimate effort => ultimate reward. if players have become used to achieving the maximum result with minimal effort, that’s too bad. I don’t see old fanbases crying about those games where you would lose all progress when you died once in game.
      do away with in game microtransactions and let the top cars be almost un-achievable and it’ll do
      if you need money find some content to sell, like game related music, pictures, and such, like every well praised game does

    8. There is much hate for GT7, not just this issue.
      I held off and I’m glad I did.

      Now fully invested in ACC on PS5, it’s honestly on another level, not as polished or convenient but way more accurate.
      It has me looking into getting a gaming pc, which is something I really don’t want to do (big rabbit hole) but I can’t help but think it’s worth it.

    9. This article gave me nightmares of 13 year old me trying desperately to save currency in GT4 to purchase faster cars. All that time I could have been doing literally anything else with my life… I can’t see F1 having the same problem. Unless they go with a model of “you can only drive the Williams until you’ve competed in 5 championships and scored at least 40 points and outqualified your teammate over at least 1 season”… None of the additional in-game purchases of previous iterations interest me at all.

    10. Mark in Florida
      3rd April 2022, 5:18

      The Grand Turismo franchise has somehow went off the rails after about GT4 ish. I always loved buying cars and maximising their performance to beat supposedly higher ranked cars in the game. It was a thrill that I really enjoyed. But they stopped the qualifying for the races, limited your ability to make money in a reasonable amount of time and made the handling generally worse not better all in the name of reality. They have managed to make the game less enjoyable more aggravating along with a huge dose of frustration added in just to cover their bases. The original games were fun, user friendly along with addictive game play. Now the games contain none of that. I don’t even play on my PlayStation anymore at all to be honest its just too maddening to do GT. So I’m not really surprised they debuted this pile of horse manure. Hopefully they will correct the game to make it better. My hope would be for them to update GT2s graphics and not change anything about the game at all. It had killer cars and tracks that I always missed in the later games. Sad beginning to a now sad franchise.

    11. “Money talks” –Lewis Hamilton

    12. The biggest problem with GT7 for me is the inability to sell your cars for credits. That’s a ridiculous decision. Whoever thought of that should be fired. It was the essence of GT to win and sell cars, trade them up, so you could always get something else.

      1. I agree 1,000%. My garage has cars I can’t remember winning, have never driven, will never drive, but can’t sell. It won’t make up for the inflated in-game economy but it would help. I’d rather spend in-game money improving my main car and have to purchase a car for a specific race rather than having 5+ cars to choose from. I know GT have promised the ability to sell cars but it should have been there from the start.

        Going forward I hope it could even be linked to a wider user-influenced used-car section where if everyone sells a certain car it becomes cheaper in the market and if everyone is buying a certain car the prices go up.

    13. Have not played a GT game since number 4. If you want a game with all cars and tracks accessible from the beginning, I would recommend gtr2 (about £5 on Steam) plus user made tracks and mods. Also, nr2003 for NASCAR/indycar and F1 challenge 09-02 for F1. The community has released modern versions of these.

    14. thespuditron
      3rd April 2022, 14:38

      Full disclosure before I say anything. GT7 was a gift from a friend, for which I am very grateful, so I did not pay any money for the game itself.

      Now, a couple of gripes I have:
      1: You cannot sell cars you don’t want which is unfortunate and was a huge way I used to earn money for cars I actually wanted.

      2: The roulette vouchers, while I like the idea a little bit, almost always lands on the smallest amount of money. Only once did it land on a car, and it was an awful one which I never used, and another time, by some miracle, it landed on a gold bar.

      That being said, I do like the game. I’m a very casual gamer these days and will not be going for the very expensive cars. I’ll never pay more money for microtransactions, and I’ll be quite happy to do hot laps of various circuits and stuff like that. I can understand some gamers would be quite irked though.

    15. No they shouln’t its called get a job, I Buy $100 of credits every other Friday, Keep the cars exclusive forget the little kids.

    16. playstation361
      12th April 2022, 16:41

      I hope the miser buy this game.

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