One of the most significant things to emerge from the Tokyo Games Show was the existence of Gran Turismo HD as a real product, rather than just a tech-demo. Polyphony Digital president Kazunori Yamauchi (known universally as Kazunori-san) held a press conference on Sony's stand at the show to explain GT HD, and we were subsequently lucky enough to be taken for a tour of the Polyphony offices and interviewed the great man himself.
But what, exactly, is GT HD? Well, it won't, as Famitsu erroneously reported, come in two SKUs, although as Kazunori explains, it will come in two parts in one box: "GT HD is two products in one: GT HD Premium and GT HD Classic. GT HD Premium will be like a sneak preview of Gran Turismo 5 - it will have full PS3 specification qualities, and will maximise the PS3's power. It will be a standalone game with 30 cars and two tracks. There will be another 30 cars and one track which people will be able to download for it."
"GT HD Classic has been designed to pursue the possibilities of network gaming, and will consist of existing GT assets recreated in full HD. All in all, it will have 770 cars and 51 tracks, all downloadable - that's where the PlayStation Store comes into play. Their prices have not yet been decided, nor have the structures of the business models."
"Looking back to the first Gran Turismo in 1997, it included 100 hours of condensed gameplay, and you needed to play it to the full extent to get all the items in the game. With Gt HD, we thought it was maybe time to take a different approach, with casual gaming accessibility. Players can connect and play for maybe 10 to 30 minutes per day. That's one of the reasons why we chose not to call it Gran Turismo 5."
Kazunori also announced that GT HD will be the first iteration of the franchise to include Ferraris, and showed a gorgeously modelled Ferrari 599 which, we can safely assume, will be among the cars in the game. And he showed a slide listing the features that will eventually make it into GT HD Classic, including track days, drift contests, tuning and setting features, head-to-head racing time trials, B-spec racing, online garages, friend lists, lobbies, voice chart, team and club builders and number-plate editors. He added that: "They won't all be available for this Christmas, though."
Finally, he gazed into his crystal ball and spoke about some of the aspects of the game which he is focusing on improving for Gran Turismo 5: "First, physics: we hope to include a further enhanced Professional mode. In the past, for example, it has been difficult to keep cars sliding - this will be for the petrol-heads out there. We would like to include damage: this has always been a request, and we are studying this area. With the AI, we have a two-stage evolution planned at 2006 year-end and Q2 2007. We want to further enhance it, and give more human-like qualities to the cars."
Kazunori said that GT HD "Will launch in Japan and Asia in winter 2006/07," thereby hedging his bets as to whether it will be a launch title, "And in the US and Europe in 2007." Without a doubt, it will be the PS3's biggest launch window title, and will put the PS3 on the map as an online console.
Here is the full transcript of the interview we had with Kazunori-san, in which he clarified the structure of GT HD Premium - which will be a straight, arcade-style game - said that the second GT HD Premium track is somewhere in North America, revealed what he himself drives and gave more of an insight into how users will be able to participate in content generation for the game.