Last week Rockstar launched the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy, a remastered bundle of three of the most influential games of all time, and almost immediately afterwards the Rockstar Games Launcher went down and the games were pulled from sale (opens in new tab). The launcher sputtered back into life late Friday but the Trilogy remained unavailable.
We reported on this last week, speaking to dataminers who suggested the real problem with the Trilogy was the presence of a bunch of unlicensed music tracks and in-code developer comments. There's also been the suggestion, which PC Gamer cannot independently confirm at the time of writing, that the infamous Hot Coffee files can be found in there (opens in new tab).
Rockstar's official accounts subsequently confirmed (opens in new tab) that the Trilogy was "unavailable to play or purchase as we remove files unintentionally included in these versions." It has now returned to sale, presumably stripped of the offending material.
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition is again available through the Rockstar Games Launcher for play and purchase. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, and are working to improve and update overall performance as we move forward: https://t.co/hAfEKqYS3oNovember 15, 2021
This is all highly embarrassing for Rockstar, a publisher that until now had a well-earned reputation for polish and the highest of production values. To have sent out its flagship titles, the games that made it what it is, in such a sorry state suggests at the very least a severe lack of oversight on this project.
And the fun may not stop there. The question is whether shipping the game with a bunch of files it didn't have the licenses for could turn into a legal problem. "In short yes I think they could get in trouble even if access were limited," business lawyer Richard Hoeg (opens in new tab) of Hoeg Law (opens in new tab) tells us. "They (presumably) don’t have the right to distribute those songs. Now, the fact that you’d have to do some significant things to get them to operate might be [at] least a partial defense to a full legal claim, but what we are really talking about here is content holders getting upset before anyone goes to court. With respect to that circumstance, I think the publisher has every reason to be concerned."
Which is to say: this probably won't end up in court (on the music side at least), but Rockstar may well have to make some amends behind closed doors.
The GTA Trilogy launch looks like it's going to remain in the news for a while because these files are only one part of its woes. The quality of the ports appears extremely poor, some calling it a mess (opens in new tab), with features like rain having bizarre implementations that can render the games more-or-less unplayable (opens in new tab). The Trilogy may be back on-sale, but it will be some time before it can be considered worthy of the games it was supposed to bring back to life.