Microsoft has long boasted about the backward compatibility of its Xbox consoles, which means you can also expect to play hundreds of past-gen games on newer systems like Series X/S. But the game publisher and console maker is quieter about taking older games down from its digital storefronts—and this week’s latest casualty, coming from a popular first party, presents problems for Xbox’s recent sales pitches.
On paper, the basic announcement may look humdrum to savvy modern-gaming fans. Starting September 15, 2021, the sim racing game Forza Motorsport 7 will no longer be available from Xbox’s digital download shops. That date marks roughly four years past its 2017 launch on Xbox One consoles, and “four years” is key. Since the Xbox Live download store has been in operation, other Forza games, both in the Motorsport and Horizon camps, have been delisted at a nearly identical cadence. This suggests that the game’s car licenses factor into the cutoff dates.
Knocked out of the usual lineup
Look closely enough at major licenses in classic video games and you’ll see a similar trend. Arguably the most prominent early example came when Nintendo began reprinting copies of its 1987 sports-action classic Punch-Out!! in 1990 without re-upping its original license deal with Mike Tyson, and it’s not uncommon to see publishers either strip licenses on older games or give up on them altogether. For most of the modern gaming industry’s history, four-year-old games have usually been relegated to bargain bins—especially if they receive regular sequels—so such a licensing term doesn’t seem egregious.