Back in 2007, Polyphony Digital was hard at work on Gran Turismo 5, having already finished off the Prologue version that included a few tracks, a handful of cars and almost nothing in the way of actually making it a real game. It was just a teaser, as were a number of the cars available to drive. At the launch of the Nissan GT-R, the successor to the infamous Skyline, Nissan and Polyphony Digital teamed up to have the digital version of the GT-R ready for sale to GT5:P fans at the same time that the car was launched at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. Its been proven time and time again that if you want to get the interest of the petrol-heads, make sure their favourite cars are in their favourite games.
And now, Chrysler is doing the same thing for its new baby.
Behold ladies and gents, its a covered-up performance preview of the new Corvette, due for launch in 2014. Chrysler says it’ll be available as standard with a new 6.2-litre V8 developing at least 450 horsepower and an unannounced amount of torque. Its a significant release because up until the last ‘Vette, the ZR-1, Chrysler hasn’t really changed the fundamentals of the car. Its still a front-engined, rear-wheel drive sportscar and they’ve been using the same engine design with a few tweaks for the past twenty years. The bodies are still made with plastic inserts and its still a much cheaper performance alternative to Porsche and other exotic makes, even if in recent years the quality has dropped when it comes to interior make-up.
One of the best things any car company can do with a new release is tease the enthusiasts, the ones who will always speak up on behalf of the brand in forums, real-life conversations and other debates as to the merits of the car (Apple fans, you fulfill the exact same purpose). While publicity isn’t as thorough as Nissan’s was for the GT-R release, this is a good indication to the level of attention the gaming world has been receiving recently as more companies realise how much they could achieve by marketing their brands in-game. And some companies which have missed the trend are struggling to get into it.
If you’ve been living under a rock since, like, forever, you would have missed the fact that since Porsche hasn’t had any branding inside a racing game since Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed, sales have declined worldwide over the years as other manufacturers realise how easily they can draw gamers into their advertising and even turn them into potential customers. In a strange twist of reality, the RUF brand, which is a Pfaffenhausen, Germany-based tuner of Porsche cars, recorded more sales because of its inclusion into every GT game since the first Gran Turismo. Mercedes-Benz spent hours and hours with thedevelopment team to tune in every detail about the SLS AMG to make it the game’s “honour car”, the one that gets featured on the cover (I can also safely say that the SLS is rubbish for racing, its only ever going to be a GT car).
But while Chrysler will be counting their pennies thanks to their dividends from the in-game sales of the preview version of the 2014 Corvette C7, it brings them one extra benefit – beta testing. See, GT5 is very, very close to how a car behaves in real life. I’ve driven several cars in real-life that do appear in the game (the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG and the BMW M3 from 2010) and the experience is very similar. And because its realism is almost spot-on, Chrysler can see for themselves how quickly the car should get around the Nürburgring in theory. Instead of spending millions of dollars testing out the car in various tracks before figuring out what to change, they can just ask Polyphony Digital for the data that includes lap times, car setups and driver rankings to figure out which data set is the closest to what they can expect from real life and work from there.
Its also fitting that the seventh generation of the Corvette makes its debut on GT5. During development of the first Gran Turismo, the release of the game in North America had to side-step any possible copyright issues to ensure the launch wasn’t plagued by someone putting a spanner in the works. What car is under the tarp? Its a question that’s been argued for over ten years now, but I do believe it was a fourth-generation Camaro. Even if it wasn’t, Corvettes have a special place in the world of GT and Chrysler’s continued association with game developers helps cement the brand with enthusiasts and casual players.
That’s the kind of marketing companies should be doing in-game, not like the way Doritos and Mountain Dew wedged their way into Halo 4. That’s just sleazy. Chrysler’s 2014 Corvette C7 in stealth guise will be available to purchase from the in-game Playstation Store and downloadable from the 13th of January 2013, which coincides with the debut of the C7 at next year’s Detroit Motor Show.