Grand Theft Auto IV returning to Steam without multiplayer

Grand Theft Auto IV suddenly disappeared from the Steam store in January due to issues with Microsoft’s Games For Windows Live platform. Now, Rockstar says the game will return to Steam, but without its multiplayer functionality.

Microsoft ended support for Games For Windows Live in 2014, causing a ripple effect that forced the game off PC’s leading storefront. Grand Theft Auto IV’s PC release was built with that platform in mind, so Microsoft’s decision made it impossible for Rockstar to keep generating keys for the game. The game was delisted on January 13 as the studio looked for new distribution options.

Rockstar found a solution, but it comes with a compromise. All digital copies of the game, as well as Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City, will be replaced with Grand Theft Auto IV: Complete Edition on March 19.

The catch is that the game will no longer feature online multiplayer or leaderboards, and a handful of the game’s radio stations will become temporarily unavailable as a result. However, players’ current save files will be compatible with the new update, so no data will be lost in the changeover.

Players who currently own the game on Steam will need to go online to update it to the Complete Edition when the change goes live. Meanwhile, physical owners will need to dig up their box and enter the key on the back of the game manual to install the update. Players who already activated the game through Games For Windows Live will need to create or link their social account to make the transition.

In addition to Steam, Rockstar’s own game launcher will get the Complete Edition update when it releases in March.

The strange situation rekindles ongoing concerns about game preservation. The full loss of PC multiplayer is a blow to the critically acclaimed game’s history, resulting in the ironically incomplete Complete Edition. In a time where there are more online and distribution services than ever before, it’s troubling to think about what could happen to games that rely on specific platforms in the long term.

In the meantime, players can still play Grand Theft Auto V, which continues to dominate sales charts nearly seven years after its release.

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