Grand Theft Auto 4 was mysteriously made unavailable for purchase via Steam earlier today. While it is only the latest in a string of Rockstar titles temporarily going dark on digital distribution sites due to expired licensing rights, there is usually some warning and reassurance that the game would return beforehand.
GTA IV’s page, and that of the ultimate edition, are still up on the store, but there is no purchase button. Naturally, players who already own the game can download or launch it as usual without any hitches, however if you haven’t picked up the title yet, you might need to wait – or look for other sources.
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Released in 2008, GTA 4 began the so-called HD Era, following the 3D era of GTA 3, Vice City, San Andreas and other spin-offs. The game featured a somewhat more serious and somber tone, however its story is praised to this day. The game is also available on PS3 and Xbox 360 and the digital versions can still be purchased on these consoles. The Episodes From Liberty City expansion pack also remains available.
This is hardly the first time a Rockstar title has temporarily gone off sale, or had to be patched in order to stay on the market. Since the GTA games feature officially licensed music, they cannot be sold if any of those licenses expire, and when it comes to a game from 2008, many such licenses are bound to have run their course by now.
GTA San Andreas, GTA Vice City and even GTA 4 have, on previous occasions, been temporarily delisted or quickly patched to remove licensed music, allowing those games to stay on the market. It was, however, indicated in advance by Rockstar that this would happen – since they obviously know when licenses expire.
Some fans are speculating that Rockstar might be migrating digital distribution to their proprietary Rockstar Games Launcher, and the game may not reappear on Steam at all. While this seems a little far fetched – no other Rockstar title has been delisted – lacking any official word, speculation is all we have right now.