Forza Horizon 3 is being removed from the Microsoft Store in September, with all DLC and the base game set to go offline. While the game has long been surpassed by its superior sequel, Forza Horizon 4, its delisting is a disappointment in many ways. Those who already own the game will still be able to download it, but for everyone else it’ll become more difficult to obtain.
Digital delisting from storefronts is an important part of the lifecycle of modern games. Licensing agreements can end prematurely or companies can choose to take games down on a whim, stranding a game in the digital afterlife. For digital-only games like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game or even Silent Hills demo P.T., delisting can totally obliterate them from existence — and there’s nothing much gamers can do about it. After all, when you purchase a digital game, it’s not like you really ‘own’ it.
Delisting means gamers are no longer able to purchase a digital version of a game. In some instances, this means you’re unable to download a game again (such as in the case of P.T.) but many digital storefronts do provide a ‘ghost’ download for content you already own.
Forza Horizon 3 players who own the game digitally will be able to redownload it, but everyone who misses the September 27 cut-off will need to find another option. It comes just four years after the game originally released, an exceptionally short time for the franchise.
Forza Horizon 3 was released on a physical disc so copies will still be around, but the largest problem with physical media is that unlike digital games, it can be easily destroyed. DVD and CD discs have expected life cycle of 200 years or below. While it’s likely your discs will last longer than your lifetime if stored correctly, they’re also at the mercy of cracks, breaks and data corruption during their life cycle. Unlike digital media, these discs are far more vulnerable to the passage of time.
While games aren’t often regarded as an essential part of history, they tell important stories about the technology, values and beliefs of particular time periods that should be preserved. Games in the 90s told colourful, fun tales brimming with exciting, kid-friendly potential. Games in the later 2010s were far bleaker and explored themes like the futility of human existence and survival. They speak to the mindset, culture and technological capabilities of the generation they were made, just like classic films and TV shows. They’re equally worthy of digital preservation.
While a title like Forza Horizon 3 might not seem like the obvious choice for preservation, it still represents years of development, technological advancements and passion on the part of fans. Reducing digital availability for titles like Forza is bad for gamers and bad for history — but in the era of strict licensing agreements and cost-cutting measures, sometimes, it’s essential.
It’s an issue the industry will have to tackle sooner or later.
Forza Horizon 3 will disappear from digital stores on September 27. If you want to grab the game before it’s gone, it’s currently on sale for $13.18.