PlayStation Studios Spotlight: Polyphony Digital

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,
Polyphony Digital are the developer behind the Gran Turismo series, one of PlayStation's most important brands. This is the one-stop shop for all things Polyphony Digital: history, projects, recent news, and a rating.

Update Log:
04/03/22 — Overhaul of page for Gran Turismo 7
If you want to see where Polyphony Digital ranks amongst the other Sony first-party developers and find out more information about the other teams, check out our PlayStation Studios Hub Page.

Polyphony Digital overview

polyphony digital spotlight

Polyphony Digital is Gran Turismo. As Polys Entertainment, the team released the first Gran Turismo game in 1997 for the PS1 after two efforts at the ill-fated Motor Toon Grand Prix series. The game immediately became iconic for its amazing graphics, car sounds, and solid driving simulation mechanics for the era. Since then, it has been nearly full acceleration on Gran Turismo for the rebranded Polyphony Digital. There have only been two deviations: shoot ‘em up game Omega Boost in 1999 and a more understandable foray into the motorbike TT realm with Tourist Trophy in 2006. Other than that, the team began full-scale operations on Gran Turismo for Sony with a great deal of creative control over each project.

1999's Gran Turismo 2 added better braking, better AI, more cars and tracks, and rally stages. 2001's Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec was the first PS2 game of the series with more of everything and an all-time best-seller, as well as one of the most important sim-racing games ever made. The leap forward in graphics, simulation capability, AI, tracks, cars, and other content was certainly generational in quality. There is also the strange tale of Japan, Korea, and Europe's 2002 Gran Turismo Concept — with a simplified American region offshoot called the Nissan 350Z Edition — which was essentially Gran Turismo 3 DLC before you could just download a patch. After a Prologue edition in 2003, the PS2 era finished with 2004/05's Gran Turismo 4 which featured the customary extra cars, tracks, and improved driving.

gran turismo psp

More suitably odd editions of Gran Turismo arrived for the PS3, opening with 2006's Japan-exclusive HD Concept. This was, in essence, a preview of the upcoming Gran Turismo 5. However, HD Concept was replaced in 2007/08 by Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, a second precursor to the next mainline entry. It sold five million copies. A demo sold five million copies. That is how beloved this franchise is. Now, though, the details were getting insane. Working dashboard dials, reflecting mirrors, real-time shadows, much better AI, and bigger races were all wheeled out of the garage. The game was also the last in the series that didn't have a truly worthy competitor in the racing-sim space, as the Forza Motorsport series from Microsoft had really begun driving with confidence.

In 2009, there was a pit-stop with the PSP version of Gran Turismo, before the long-awaited Gran Turismo 5 finally arrived in 2010. From the release of the fourth game, it took six years of development time to complete. That didn't take the edge off excitement when it finally arrived, though. GT5 is the second-highest selling PS3 game, had a ginormous roster of cars and tracks, flipping cars and a damage model — of a sort — dynamic weather and time, and official licences from all kinds of driving disciplines. Even people who didn't like racers wanted a go. The PS3 saw another release just three years after the last with Gran Turismo 6. While there was a positive reception, FIA-backing, and money coming out of the carburettor, it was in a tricky position. The game was out a month after the PS4 was released and had levelled up its simulation game to a point where it was becoming a difficult game to just pick up and play. The Xbox One had launched with Forza Motorsport 5, really cementing its position on the podium.

gran turismo 6 gt6

For the PS4 era, Gran Turismo Sport hit shelves in 2017 and was a hyper-focused e-driving machine. The game was met with middling reviews for a Gran Turismo game with a 75 on Metacritic for the initial lack of content and the laser focus on keeping it on track. However, context is key: GT had a mixed PS3 generation. During huge gaps between high-selling games, the famous franchise lost ground to the Forza Motorsport series on Xbox in not just the racing-sim space, but in terms of brand recognizability, as its rival expanded into the open-world racing with spin-off Forza Horizon entries. Despite the pedigree of the GT name, it was undoubtedly struggling in the face of such a huge loss in market dominance.

With that context in mind, when Sport hit the tarmac on PS4 in 2017, it was a bit of an identity check moment for the franchise. It cut as much fat as possible and focused on driving and competition, leaving the series in a place where it could compete for a few years while work on GT7 commenced. The game was highly competitive because of its unbelievably high tier simulation components. In fact, drivers are selected from the GT academy to try out real driving if they perform well enough. Indeed, this was also where the critical reception truly differed from the target audience, with reviewers struggling to get to grips with such a hardy sim experience.

The team now has four studios across the world and is headed up by the legendary Kazunori Yamauchi. Kaz is a car nut and racing driver who manages to leak every game because he turns up on race tracks with the dev team taking pictures of grooves and brake pedals. This is a team that loves racing and wants to make nothing else.

Polyphony Digital's previous project: Gran Turismo 7 (2022)

Daytona gt7

Gran Turismo 7 was released on March 4th, 2022 for PS4 and PS5 and nailed it. Kes' review for the game is glowing and he gave it a 9/10. He said that "Gran Turismo 7 fashions a passionate love letter for every gear shift, every metre of tarmac, every camshaft and roll bar — yet manages to evoke that feeling in the player, too." This is about on point with the critical consensus on Opencritic, where the game holds an 88. Indeed, the game improves the simulation experience with weather effects and better handling, introduces robust single-player elements, while providing turning, customisations, and mad technical details for you to play with.

Polyphony Digital's current project: Gran Turismo 8

gran turismo 7

Inevitably the studio will be working on another game alongside post-launch content for Gran Turismo 7. The question is really whether the team opt for another Prologue/Sport-style spin-off or another numbered entry. The other question is whether we will see a separate version of Gran Turismo 7 that is made with only the PS5 in mind. In any case, the next entry is probably a few years out.

Polyphony Digital in 2022

gt7 polyphony

Gran Turismo 7 was finally released on March 4th, 2022. Last year, Kaz, did an interview with Eurogamer in which he didn't want to talk about VR support and confirmed that GT7 will be supported for a long, long time. The long-term support plans are now in full swing, with the details of the post-launch content described.

Where does Polyphony Digital rank?

A hard ranking, here. Gran Turismo is a brand synonymous with PlayStation. The series kicked off the PS1 era and that success was maintained until the middle of the PS3 era. Even after a dip in the casual brand recognition, both the sixth and Sport entries became highly competitive in pro circles and were running licenced FIA tournaments. Gran Turismo 7, though, has resurrected the series to the casual market by making the game more accessible, even if it carries a few legacies that should have been left in the PS2 era. Though occasionally slow and laboured in the making of its games, Polyphony is undoubtedly a fantastic and passionate team. The Gran Turismo series needs a kick in our opinion, but that isn’t really the responsibility of the studio. For that, we think Polyphony should retain its gold trophy for being an exceptional studio.

However, the insane decision by Sony to close Wipeout developer Studio Liverpool and the Driveclub and Motorstorm developers Evolution Studios has left the racing genre in a tricky place on PlayStation. Where the Forza series double prong of sim-racer Motorsport and the more casual Horizon, Sony's platform doesn't have that same impact. Therefore, Polyphony Digital is a final bastion for PlayStation in the racing genre, so the Japanese company had better thank the stars that such a talented studio is in charge of that frontier.


Great games already notched for the studio and primed to make more

If you want to see where Polyphony Studio ranks amongst the other Sony first-party developers and find out more information about the other teams, check out our PlayStation Studios Hub Page.
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Editor Kes is our resident expert in PlayStation and other gaming news. He writes about exclusives like The Last of Us and Horizon, PS Plus news, and his favourite games — The Witcher, Assassin’s Creed, and God of War — before an evening swim.
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