Spec Ops: The Line – not available for purchase (Picture: 2K)
The dangers of an all-digital future have been laid bare as Devil May Cry 2 and 3, and Spec Ops: The Line, disappear from online stores.
The Xbox One was an enormous disaster for Microsoft, with customers repelled by its emphasis on digital-only gaming and never truly owning what you buy. Those problems, and the benefits of physical games, have not changed in the last 10 years but now, suddenly, a complete digital takeover seems very close.
Reports have already emerged from the US, that some retailers are planning to stop stocking physical Xbox games and now it’s claimed that European retailers are doing the same thing, only a few weeks after GAME announced an end to trade-ins.
That not only makes it much harder to buy and resell games, but it ensures that many in the future will simply cease to exist, which has just happened to the acclaimed Spec Ops: The Line, which has been withdrawn from all online stores because of licensing issues.
Spec Ops: The Line was released in 2012 and although relatively mediocre in terms of its third person combat was lauded for its storytelling, which was inspired by Joseph Conrad’s classic Heart of Darkness – the same novella that inspired Apocalypse Now.
If that sounds intriguing to you then we’re afraid you’re out of luck, as the only way of purchasing it now is if you happen to find a physical copy on eBay or in CeX.
According to publisher 2K, this is because of ‘partnership licences’ within the game, which have now expired. It’s not clear what they’re referring to (it’s a long while since we’ve played it) but presumably there was product placement of some kind – we’ve asked 2K to clarify exactly what.
The fact that, whatever the licensing problem is, it’s not even memorable or intrinsic to the story is particularly unfortunate, as now the game effectively doesn’t exist, unless you already own it (you can still download and play it digitally, if that’s how you bought it).
This sort of thing has happened before, most notably with the Transformers and Marvel games published by Activision in the Xbox 360 era and many racing simulators, including Forza Motorsport. As well as digital-only indie games on online stores, with the Xbox 360 one due to shut down in a few months.
It’s bad whenever that happens but without the ability to buy a physical copy it’s going to mean that some video games will disappear forever, and GamesIndustry.biz’s Christopher Dring claims that it will soon be impossible to buy physical Xbox games in Europe.
That’s surely not what’s happened with Devil May Cry 2 and 3 and yet they have also mysteriously disappeared from online stores, for all formats. So, if you want to buy them right now then there’s no option other than finding an old physical copy.
Although Spec Ops: The Line was never a major hit, and 2K probably aren’t very interested in remastering it in a form where they can put it back on sale, Capcom almost certainly will when it comes to Devil May Cry.
In fact, the most likely explanation is that they’re planning some kind of new edition for the two games, which may in itself indicate that Devil May Cry 6 is relatively imminent – since it’s been a long since the fifth entry.
Whatever the reason is though, the end result is the same: it’s currently impossible to buy either title and for games in the future, that never get a physical release, it’s going to be like they never existed.
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