Yesterday, Rockstar released a new patch for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on Steam that represents some of the issues with digital distribution, mandatory patches and licensing agreements.
The patch from Rockstar did the following to the game:
- Adds Xinput controller support (Xbox 360 controllers)
- Makes “Steering with Mouse” enabled by default
- Removes several songs from *all owners* and from future purchases (the same ones that were removed in the mobile version)
- Removes several resolution options, including 1920x1080
- Loading a saved game starts a new one
This patch is so very, very wrong in many ways. This patch actually actively removes content from people who had bought the game. The removing of resolution is just insane, as it had been patched to work after initial issues and now it gets removed? Removing songs is weird – while I can get the licenses might have expired that should only effect new ones going forward *not* the ones going back. In fact, for Vice City, Rockstar was able to do that which works.
If they are saying this was required by the licenses – what are they going to do about physical copies and ones off of Steam? I mean those still have the songs that were distributed. The player bought the right to that and Rockstar going in and unilaterally removing a part of the program they sold to the players.
These two changes are what likely required the starting of new game when loaded and without notice that happens. At the very least there should be an announcement about this – but there is a deafening silence on Rockstars site and on their Steam page about it. Not only have they done this to their customers they have done it silently and without any acknowledgement of it.
Digital Distribution and mandatory patches such as steam require, rely on trust. In the end, the customer trusts both the distributer (Steam) and the developer (Rockstar) to not go out of their way to change things in a negative matter. In this case Rockstar broke that trust by making a patch that will actively downgrade their users’ experience. Steam broke that trust because it mandates patches to play and let this type of patch go live. For a while people have wondered what will happen if a digital distributor went dead suddenly and what would happen to their games.
Now there might be a different worry. With the ground broken here by Rockstar, will we see other companies modify and cut out content at will? Perhaps cut out patches that made a version of a game more playable to encourage them to buy the game of the year or next edition?
Hopefully this won't become a pattern of sorts with game company's cutting content out at will. Hopefully Rockstar will be held to account for this and maybe Steam will pull out of their mandatory patch-to-play.