Gran Turismo 7 illustrates the folly of always-online games

Screenshot from Gran Turismo 7
(Image credit: Polyphony Digital)

Gran Turismo 7 is perhaps the finest racing game of 2022 so far, and easily an early contender for Game of the Year. With its wide variety of cars, tight gameplay and extensive customization options, it’s just what longtime fans wanted, and accessible enough for newcomers.

There’s only one problem: On Mar. 17, no one could play it — even if they wanted to play offline. Gran Turismo 7 is only two weeks old, and its always-online requirement is already stifling it.

Some background info: Yesterday (Mar. 17), the GT7 servers went down, and stayed down for the next 30 hours. Naturally, this meant that players couldn’t access the game online. However, since the game has an always-online requirement, even in single-player modes, it also meant that no one could play the game at all. People who were in the middle of races lost their progress; others couldn’t start the game at all.

To read more about the situation, check out the latest post on the official Gran Turismo website. Kazunori Yamauchi, CEO of Polyphony Studios (GT7’s developer), posted a stark, informative apology for the game’s extended downtime.

“Immediately before the release of the 1.07 update, we discovered an issue where the game would not start properly in some cases on product versions for the PS4 and PS5,” Yamauchi wrote. “This was a rare issue that was not seen during tests on the development hardware or the QA sessions prior to release, but in order to prioritize the safety of the save data of the users, we decided to interrupt the 1.07 update, and to make a 1.08 correctional update. This is the reason for the delay.”

Yamauchi goes on to discuss how the 1.08 patch also rebalances how much cars cost in-game, and how quickly users can earn credits. The long and short of it is that high-end cars are now more expensive, which makes the games microtransactions more tempting, even for casual players.

Microtransaction mess

Both the microtransactions and the always-online requirements are baffling decisions for a full-priced game from a major developer. GT7 has already sold remarkably well, and as the PS5’s premier racing title, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. By forcing players to be online at all times, and putting vehicles out of their reach unless they purchase costly microtransactions, Sony is essentially denying players functionality that they should expect from a $60 game.

Always-online requirements are unavoidable in certain games: massively multiplayer online games or competitive esports titles, for example. But GT7 has a strong single-player component. Forcing users to maintain a constant connection is not only cumbersome — it’s arguably wasteful, for players who have capped data plans, or even prohibitive, for players who don’t have stable connections.

Granted, GT7’s single-player and multiplayer components don’t have a hard line of demarcation between them, since the benefits you earn in one transfer over to the other. But regular maintenance is part of any online game, and this may not be the last time it goes on for longer than anticipated. It’s enough to make GT7 players wonder what might happen during the next maintenance cycle — or whether the whole game might someday go offline, single-player components and all.

Remember: this is the series that inspired PlayStation boss Jim Ryan to wonder aloud, “Why would anybody play this?” about older entries. Game preservation has to start somewhere, and it might as well start as soon as a game launches.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.