It’s been 25 years since Gran Turismo was released on PlayStation and changed racing games forever. With GT7 just around the corner, series creator Kazunori Yamauchi wants to turn a new generation of PlayStation gamers into car fanatics all over again. But you may not realise there’s another racing game series celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
Before Gran Turismo, there was TOCA Touring Cars. Developed by Codemasters and released on the original PlayStation and PC in 1997, TOCA paved the way for the GRID series we know today.
GRID Legends is a solid entry in the series and a fun, enjoyable arcade racer. In our review, we praised GRID Legends for its fast and furious racing, variety of disciplines, and revolutionary online multiplayer. The well-publicised Driven to Glory story mode has its shortcomings, but GRID Legends is a significant improvement over the forgettable 2019 GRID reboot.
Despite this, GRID Legends could be 2022’s first racing game flop.
A slow start
GRID Legends has only been out a few days, but early indications suggest it isn’t selling well. On release day, GRID Legends was notably absent on Amazon UK’s 100 best-selling games list. At the time of writing, Amazon ranks the PS5 version at number 341 in its PC and video game sales charts.
According to GamesIndustry.biz, GRID Legends debuted at number 18 in the UK game charts for the week ending 26 February. The PS5 version was the most popular accounting for 56% of sales, followed by Xbox (26%), and PS4 (17%).
It’s worth noting that this doesn’t take digital game sales into account. Even so, GRID Legends’ chart debut is alarmingly low for a new release - especially one backed by a major publisher like EA.
On PC, initial player numbers are also worryingly low. Data compiled by SteamDB shows that player numbers peaked at a paltry 455 during the launch period. For comparison, Forza Horizon 5 has an all-time peak of 81,096 players according to SteamDB. This isn’t looking like a great launch.
There are a few factors that could be contributing to this. First, the release timing is terrible, to say the least. GRID Legends launched a mere week before Gran Turismo 7, one of the biggest and most anticipated games of the year. It’s going to face some stiff competition, but GRID Legends effectively entered the race with a flat tyre.
Unlike GT7, GRID Legends is a multi-platform release. But with the PS5 version proving more popular than other formats, sales will inevitably suffer when GT7 crosses the line later this week. GRID has a fanbase, but it simply can’t compete with the considerable hype surrounding GT7.
For PlayStation gamers, the release of a new Gran Turismo game feels like a special event. These games don’t release very often: GT Sport launched in 2017, while GT6, the last numbered entry, released way back in 2013. If most cash-strapped PlayStation racing fans can only buy one racing game right now, it’s going to be GT7.
February was also a surprisingly crowded month. The number of new game launches over the last few weeks was unprecedented, with notable new releases like Horizon Forbidden West, Dying Light 2, and Elden Ring straining gamer’s budgets.
Why wasn't GRID Legends delayed?
Without question, GRID Legends should have been delayed to steer clear of this crowded period. Even a short delay would have helped Codemaster's new racer stand out and given it a better chance to succeed.
Moving the release to April or May would have given the game more room to breathe after GT7. With MotoGP 22 currently the only major racing game slated for April, GRID Legends would get the spotlight it deserves. A release in April or May would also still prevent GRID Legends from clashing with F1 2022 in July, too.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time poor timing has jeopardised sales of EA-published games. Recently, EA blamed Battlefield 2042’s disappointing sales on Halo Infinite's close release. Let’s also not forget the tragedy of Titanfall 2. Respawn’s revered sci-fi shooter was sandwiched between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in 2016, and its sales suffered as a result. GRID Legends could suffer the same fate.
It begs the question: why didn't EA apply the brakes and delay GRID Legends? Ultimately, it probably comes down to sales targets. After a $1.2 billion acquisition, EA now owns Codemasters. GRID Legends was most likely pushed out of the paddock to maximise EA’s sales results for the 2022 fiscal year, which ends on 31 March, 2022.
Even if GRID Legends underperforms, EA won’t regret acquiring Codemasters. F1 2021’s sales are performing above expectations, and the motorsport's increasing popularity means F1 2022 will be another success story. But if GRID Legends’ sales fall below EA’s expectations, this could be the end of the road for the franchise. For a series with roots tracing back to the original TOCA Touring cars, that would be a crying shame.