- Mazda Motor Corp. designed a virtual race car for the Sony PlayStation 4 video game "Gran Turismo Sport" to give players a glimpse of what it's like to drive a vehicle by the car brand, the company announced.
- The car maker Mazda worked with the game's creator Polyphony Digital to develop the Mazda RX-Vision GT3 Concept vehicle for the driving simulation game.
- Gamers that select the Mazda vehicle in "Gran Turismo Sport" will automatically get to participate in the FIA certified Gran Turismo Championship that takes place in several locations around the globe later this year. In the meantime, racing fans can tune into The Ricmotech iRacing Global Mazda MX-5 Cup, a weekly race on Tuesday nights, that kicked off on May 5 and will run through June 2. Races will air live on the Mazda's Facebook page as well as the ApexTv and iRacing YouTube channels.
By bringing its high-tech concept car to the gaming sphere, Mazda is hoping to get consumers to virtually test drive its vehicles and connect online.
Digital motorsports and esports have surged in popularity in recent years, and they have the potential to grow even more now that the coronavirus pandemic is keeping most people at home. Mazda is looking to capitalize on this uptick and get in front of car fans in a playful way that links like-minded gamers on a competitive platform. With the in-person championships scheduled for later this year, it appears Mazda is using gaming now to lay the groundwork for these esports activations down the road.
The "Gran Turismo Sport" tie-in also follows a trend of brands tapping digital community-building during this time instead of traditional advertising efforts to more deeply connect with loyal fans. Chipotle, for instance, has been connecting with customers on Zoom and has counted 500 million impressions on these daily video sessions. Mazda seems to be taking a similar route in cultivating community by getting involved in the weekly entertainment of digital motorsports fans.
This effort comes as the pandemic hits in-person retail, including car dealerships. Cars are a tricky category to sell online, as compared to something as simple as books, toys or clothing. Many consumers like to drive a car they are going to buy, and these race car games can be used as a platform to get people accustomed to the brand and explore vehicle features. Car companies can use these virtual driving experiences to promote not just race cars in game play, but also to encourage consumers to try virtual test drives of buyable models, a trend emerging during lockdowns.