It is my understating that the original Test Drive (1987) on Amiga 500 really was the ground zero for the civil car racing genre on which Need for Speed and Gran Turismo –series, among others, are based. And besides that, everything that was cool with the 80s yuppie culture just came together in TD so beautifully.
Car rosters have since TD days grown dramatically, from TD’s 5 cars to hundreds of cars. Gran Turismo 5 is set to have 1000 cars in it, although only 200 of them are so-called premium cars with dashboards and nuts-and-bolts-modeling.
So how many cars one really needs to enjoy a racing game?
I have this theory which I call “the pie of appreciation”. I believe that the amount of appreciation one can have towards luxury items is fixed to some extent. Indeed, one cannot increase one’s total appreciation by hogging more luxury objects, since additional items don’t provide more of the pie, but only slice the pie one already has into more pieces. Luxury is a zero-sum game.
This is why, I believe, it’s irrelevant how many cars one has in a racing game when the amount of cars goes beyond some reasonable number, say, 15. The higher the number gets, the smaller the ▸piece of appreciation pie becomes per car. I remember having so much fun playing TD with only 5 cars, because back then you really had a chance to develop a special relationship to every each of the cars, in contrast to the sea of cars found in Need for Speed: SHIFT.
In addition, people in general don’t like to make decisions, let alone when there’re tens of options to choose from. Even a child gets frustrated when she has too much toys to play with.
Naturally, I’m not by any means against a huge number of cars in a racing game. It is pretty cool to have own virtual car museum with the possibility to take every exhibit for a spin at will.