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Order of War: first game erased from all Steam user libraries

by Mark Tyson on 31 December 2013, 11:00

Tags: Square Enix (TYO:9684), Valve, PC

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Forbes magazine has brought to light a significant event that appears to have slipped below the general gaming industry news radar. Earlier this year, for the first time, Steam removed a game from user libraries which had become unplayable thanks to a combination of online game server shut-down and the game's always online DRM requirement.

Previously games have disappeared from the Steam Store, no longer available but Order of War: Challenge is apparently the first game to be 'wiped from history' in this way, as if it never existed, or was never purchased. The game was published by Square Enix which took down the servers in September. Shortly after that the game was removed from all user libraries. As mentioned in the intro the game's main thrust was of multi-player online combat which required the servers but it also did contain 18 single-player missions, reports Forbes.

The story of the removal of Order of War: Challenge really does bring home the feeling of uncertainty about buying digital goods and ownership. Forbes reminds us that as part of Steam's TOS we consumers don't really own the games but they are leased to us. It is within Valve's rights to remove games – though it would not be good for the reputation of the store for this to become a regular occurrence. Also the always-online DRM in some games leaves you vulnerable to the continued health of the publishing company and/or Valve.

On one hand sellers of digital goods like music, video and games want you to respect their property just like it was a TV or a car but on the other hand this kind of removal of your goods would never happen for a fully paid up purchase in the real world.

In the last year I have really boosted my collection of games on Steam, due to some attractive sales and bundles. After reading the Forbes article I'm wondering what would be left in my library, if left untouched, in 10 years time. Would it contain just the DRM free Humble Bundle type games I have?

HEXUS Forums :: 17 Comments

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Very, very dodgy precedent. Have any of the purchasers kicked up a fuss? I presume Steam has made no effort to recompense them?
Always on DRM has resulted in this problem on a number of occasions already (cf. games for windows live) but theres been other ones in the past. Ultimately the issue here rests firmly with Sqenix, if they made the game unplayable by turning off their drm servers they've caused the issue, and its them that should be compensating players. (although considering the resale value I don't think anyones going to be chasing it).

It makes sense for steam to remove the store page so no one could accidentally buy it, and I'd like to give valve the benefit of the doubt that their system won't let them have orphaned games installed but with no store page.

All that being said, I still try to avoid always on drm wherever possible.
But Steam have done that sort of thing before - see Dragon Age II. You could buy it, and now you can't. It's another kettle of fish to completely erase it from people's libraries though.
It's not just the “always on” type of DRM either though: what happens when game X requires online activation for the install and the activation servers have been shut down? Developers could patch the DRM out with an update in the same way that the original Dawn of War game had its copy protection patched out with the last update, but most will choose not to spend the extra time/money on a game that isn't making any more revenue.

In twenty years time (probably less), most of these games will not be playable and the “nostalgia kick” will only be available in the unlikely event that they are re-released - but you'll have to pay for the game again.

tl;dr DRM is bad for the consumer.
Here's me with my tapes and floppy disks on C64, Amiga, Atari ST etc.

As long as I store them properly I will still own and be able to play them in the next 20 years.

Steam / Valve is a great platform and stuff like this is beyond their control, this lands right in the court of Square Enix. Dragon Age 2 if you have bought it on Steam already, even though it is removed from the store you can still download and play it, you can even activate the key on Origin if you wished. This was an EA thing, they took that and Crysis 2 off Steam, Crysis 2 is back on there now, surprised that DA2 hasn't come back. Same goes for Wolfenstein, I have that and can still download it on Steam even though it has been removed from the store, believe that has something to do with licensing. Then look at games that have been removed from GOG's catalog, Second Sight & XIII earlier this year and Fallout series is due to leave midnight tonight as Bethesda haven't renewed with GOG.

Unfortunately this happens, I hope that Valve shows their customers some support with this and maybe gives affected users a credit to their wallet as form of compensation.