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Gran Turismo influences sales of Japanese Cars in US

Old 12-11-02, 11:54 PM
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Gran Turismo influences sales of Japanese Cars in US

From Yahoo

Technology - Reuters

Popular Videogame Sending Japan's Sports Cars Abroad
Wed Dec 11, 8:13 PM ET Add Technology - Reuters to My Yahoo!

By Chang-Ran Kim

TOKYO (Reuters) - How do you get motor racing fans to buy your company's sports car?


Simple. Have them drive it for 100 hours first -- on a PlayStation game console.


That marketing ploy may seem far-fetched, but it appears to be working judging from the popularity of the "Gran Turismo" car-racing game and recent plans by Japanese automakers to sell their mean machines abroad.


Japanese sports cars are well-known around the world -- some with excellent track records on European racing circuits -- but to fans' dismay, many of them have never been sold outside Japan.


That's slowly changing.


The Subaru Impreza -- considered one of Japan's best sports cars -- began selling in Europe and the United States in the past two years after making a debut there in videogame form only. Two other top Japanese sports cars are set to do the same.


Having marketed the past seven Lancer Evolution models in Japan alone, Mitsubishi Motors has said the sports sedan will debut in the U.S. early next year.


Nissan Motor also plans to sell its next Skyline GT-R model in the U.S. and Europe for the first time, though it hasn't said when.


"There's no doubt that Gran Turismo played a huge role in our decision to launch the Lancer Evolution in the United States," said Takashi Kiuchi, a product relations official at Mitsubishi.

"The car wouldn't have attracted as much attention as it has in the United States without the game."

It's no wonder.

Sony Computer Entertainment has sold about 30 million Gran Turismo games since it launched the first version in 1997, mostly in the United States and Europe. Both regions have twice as many users as Japan.

"We always knew the game would have a profound effect on the player," said Kazunori Yamauchi, producer of the Gran Turismo series, noting it takes the average player about 100 hours to master the game.

"And it's not just 100 hours of subliminal advertising -- they're intense, interactive hours of getting to know the car."

Yamauchi said officials at Fuji Heavy Industries, which makes Subaru cars, have thanked him for bringing so much publicity to the Impreza.

FROM VIRTUAL TO REALITY

Mitsubishi Motors' Kiuchi says he has heard of Gran Turismo players overseas calling the automaker's local dealerships to ask why the Lancer Evolution wasn't sold in their home markets.

The main reason is the existence of stricter emissions and crash-safety standards in the U.S. and Europe, but automakers are carrying out adjustments to get around that hurdle.

Players of the game series are mostly between the ages of 18 and 45 -- old enough to drive the cars they handle in virtual reality.

"I know plenty of people -- including my own staff -- who played the game first and then went out to get a license and a sports car or two," said Yamauchi, who owns five sports cars.

Yamauchi, who heads Polyphony Digital Inc, a unit of Sony Computer Entertainment, said he gets asked all the time by carmakers to feature their machines in the game but never considered charging for advertising.

"We want to make the game the way we see fit, and not be tied to the requests you might get from paying advertisers."

With a program that records dozens of settings unique to each car, such as the engine sound, the game simulates racing so accurately that it was recognized as a training tool for the VW Lupo Cup, a race organized by Germany's Volkswagen, he said.

But some die-hard sports-car fans still say nothing compares to driving the real thing -- which could explain why some of the game's players show such a keen interest in obtaining the 3-D version.

"I do give credit to the Gran Turismo team for a certain level of reality it reaches," said Radek Berent, a 19-year-old in Australia who has a Web site dedicated to the Lancer Evolution.

"But you talk about the EVO (Lancer Evolution) as a car with great cornering ability and traction, and in Gran Turismo you are left wondering where exactly it is."
Thought that was interesting.
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Old 12-12-02, 12:22 AM
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That is interesting. I just hope this phenomenon doesn't turn video games into interactive commercials.
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Old 12-12-02, 03:29 AM
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Sony's PR folks sure didn't do a good job of making sure the reporter understood that the game isn't already an interactive commercial.

Anyway, I don't think much good can come of this. If these cars aren't already emissions friendly and crash safe, when they come over, they'll be modified just enough to meet the bare minimum standards.

They'll stink up the air, and when they're on the road with our big SUVs, they'll probably be involved in a lot of fatal crashes.
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Old 12-12-02, 03:48 AM
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Thats why I ride a bike! makes zooming around campus quick and easy! Of course now that there's 3 feet of snow on the ground I have to walk everywhere
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Old 12-12-02, 08:40 AM
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Makes a whole lot of sense - I can definitely see the desire, even in my own car choices.
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Old 12-12-02, 01:30 PM
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They'll still be safer and cleaner than those SUVs you mentioned. Crash and emission standards are much higher for cars than for trucks.
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Old 12-12-02, 02:46 PM
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I haven't played much Gran Turismo, but I would still love to have a WRX.
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Old 12-12-02, 04:23 PM
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The WRX is one sweet puppy, but what I really want is a Focus RS here in the states.
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