The servers being switched off a mostly online-dependent game is somewhat inevitable, but it needn’t be rendered unplayable.
As documented in a recent column, Gran Turismo Sport was a spin-off that initially disappointed ardent GT fans but ultimately went on to define what accessible multiplayer sim racing should be.
When it was announced last year that its servers were going to be switched off, there was legitimate concern that it would render the game, for the most part, unplayable.
All through its six-and-a-bit years as a living platform, an internet connection was required to access most of the single-player content, not just multiplayer.
This included your game progress being sent to the server, as opposed to locally on a PlayStation 4, and a daily workout system that tracked your progress every 24 hours, dishing out rewards.
In theory, when the servers were killed on 31st January, being able to earn credits, buy new cars, rack up mileage points, play the driving school challenges and the single-player league races would not have been possible.
But developers Polyphony Digital released a patch to change the game save process. Now locally on the PS4, it also removed the daily workout feature and mileage store – no huge loss there – and it means all the traditional Gran Turismo content can still be played. Even the rudimentary PSVR support remains active.
Time is money, and the team has long since moved on to Gran Turismo 7. But for the sake of preservation, I’m thankful one final update was commissioned.
Why Is Game Preservation Important?
Can you imagine a Hollywood blockbuster being lost forever? That’s the very real possibility since video games, and simulators, became available digitally.
If you purchase a game from any online store as a download, be it Steam, Microsoft or Sony, there exists an opinion that you never truly own it. I happen to agree. You are simply paying for the privilege of access, not ownership.
Things change, evolve and expire. There will come a time, maybe next week or maybe 2124, when online services and stores are switched off. I would never bet against Steam collapsing or iRacing ceasing to exist, but they are not indefectible. Anything is possible, even if it doesn’t seem probable.
On PC, there are some amazing fans out there tirelessly preserving games through abandonware projects. But I don’t think you cannot rely on that goodwill entirely.
We’ve seen in other forms of media Amazon accessing people’s Kindle collections and removing paid-for books, or conversely Apple forcing a new U2 album on its users – and I’d never wish that on anyone!
You can no longer buy any of the seven prior Forza Motorsport games or the first three Horizon releases. Rights and licencing are complex beasts, with the intricacies rarely aired in public.
It’s worse, though, when a title requires a permanent internet connection to play – because, without the publisher’s servers, the task of making it work again in the future is infinitely more difficult, if not impossible.
Ubisoft’s The Crew, from 2014, is set to lose its connection on 31st March 2024, and as it stands, after that date, no one will ever be able to play that game again. It will be lost forever.
While I’m personally not a huge fan of that instalment, I still find it frankly absurd that a part of gaming history will forever remain a distant memory.
Thankfully, at least, GT Sport has set (I hope) a precedent. I don’t mind a game being reliant on an internet connection while it is contemporary. Especially if I think it adds to the experience or helps reduce the chance of cheating.
But not patching it on the final day so it can be enjoyed in perpetuity is heresy.
GT Sport – What You Can Still Play Offline
The following features can be played in GT Sport forever, provided the PlayStation Store still exists to download the final update:
- Campaign – GT League (the main ‘career’)
- Campaign – Driving School
- Campaign – Mission Challenge
- Campaign – Circuit Experience
- Campaign – Lewis Hamilton Time Trial Challenge DLC (provided you previously purchased it)
- Brand Central – all cars can be purchased
- Arcade – Single Race
- Arcade – Time Trial
- Arcade – Drift Trial
- Arcade – Custom Race
- Arcade – Two-player split screen
- Arcade – VR Tour
- All cars and tracks remain
- Credits and mileage points can be accrued
- Replays and images can be saved to the library
- All progress is saved locally
GT Sport – Online Features Removed
The following features have been removed from GT Sport, or remain inaccessible, as they required a constant connection to Sony’s servers:
- Daily workouts
- Livery editor (creations, to be shared with others, were stored online)
- Mileage exchange
- Discover (where you downloaded community-created content)
- Sport mode (ranked online system)
Do you think other developers and publishers should follow suit and issue a final update to help make previously online-only titles remain playable, or is it not that simple? Let us know in the comments below.