When it comes to digital distribution and licensed music, the situation never ends well, especially not in favor of gamers. If you don't already own a copy of GTA IV, you might want to grab it soon before it loses a ton of the licensed music.
Kotaku is reporting that Rockstar Games' license for the songs featured in GTA IV is about to expire. What does this mean? A whole bunch of the licensed songs will be removed from the game.
According to the article, starting April 26th, 2018 a cache of licensed songs from Grand Theft Auto IV will be removed due to the license expiry. The game came out a decade ago on April 29th, 2008 for the Xbox 360 and PS3, which is when the original license was made available for public distribution.
On the upside, some of the songs that are being removed are actually being replaced, and PS3 gamers were informed that there will be a patch of content to compensate for the removal of the songs. What sort of songs will be implemented in place of the removed songs? We don't know and Rockstar hasn't said.
Unlike with previous GTA titles, at least gamers have a heads-up that this time around the game will be updated to remove the songs.
Of course, if you don't want the songs removed you will have to disable automatic updates in Steam and ensure that your copy of the game is not updated. Otherwise the songs will be replaced.
The removal of the songs due to the license expiry is nothing new. In fact, this has happened twice with the digital releases of GTA: San Andreas and the digital release of GTA: Vice City. In fact, back in 2012 we reported that Vice City was removed from digital distributors, including Steam. It turned out that the removal was due to Sony Music Entertainment's rights over various Michael Jackson songs that were removed from the game, along with a few other tracks.
After the songs were removed, Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive proceeded to make GTA: Vice City available again.
A couple of years later GTA: San Andreas also suffered the same fate, with various songs being removed from the game's soundtrack library in order to comply with the license agreement that Rockstar signed in order to feature the songs in the open-world action title.
By 2023 expect another update for GTA V that will also likely remove some of the licensed songs from the game. Just another one of the downsides to the supposed "all digital future."
It's kind of unfortunate that gamers who enjoyed the original soundtracks will be deprived of these options, but that's just the way licensed music works. A similar issue also befell games like Hitman: Contracts and the original Mafia, both of which had to remove certain licensed songs before they could be sold on digital distribution outlets.