The first three games that are part of Grand Theft Auto’s 3D universe, Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City, and San Andreas, are arguably Rockstar Games’ most famous, historically important, and beloved works. This Grand Theft Auto Trilogy is credited for making the studio one of gaming’s most prosperous and normalizing the use of licensed songs in the soundtrack. Additionally, it pushed the boundaries of what games could do thanks to the sandbox approach they took with their level design and the controversy they attracted. For a long time, Rockstar treated this “trilogy” of games better than any of its other games. Indeed, ports of this Grand Theft Auto Trilogy on newer consoles and mobile devices became the norm. However, upon announcing the existence of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition, Rockstar also confirmed that the original versions of the games will soon be unavailable.

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Alongside Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition’s pitiful reception, this decision on Rockstar’s part fueled the wrath of fans in the community. Rockstar has already attempted to make up for its mistakes. However, the removal of the original versions of the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy remains a problematic decision to begin with. If Rockstar really wants to show remorse for its provocative choices, then bringing the games back on platforms such as the PlayStation Store is the least it could do.

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The Downsides of Digital Gaming

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In the past decade, the methods of producing and distributing video games have evolved. Digital purchases have become more common. Originally, this practice, thanks to platforms like Steam, was mostly dominant in PC gaming, making physical copies of computer games redundant in the process. As for consoles, digital-only games and games that are simultaneously available in physical and digital forms became the norm around the time the Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 entered the scene. Theoretically, digital gaming is immensely beneficial. It manages to save time that would be spent going to a store to buy a game in addition to leaving space on shelves for other things. However, there are some rather unfortunate drawbacks. For one, even with the usual updates modern games have, digital copies take up far more space than their physical counterparts.

While the average PC can bypass this potential issue without breaking a sweat, things get more worrisome with consoles. There is a reason why console owners prefer physical copies over digital ones. Due to the storage space being far smaller than what PCs have to offer, console players have to carefully plan around digital purchases, which might lead to a lot of time being spent installing and uninstalling various games.

Having games be strictly digital can also be a problem, which is why giving digital-only games a physical release is important. Society is in a transitionary period, and physical releases of any media are still just as common as they were before the Internet became ubiquitous. If a piece of media is only available digitally, then consumers have to rely on separate platforms to own a copy of said media. If something happens to the servers, or if the media is pulled from digital platforms, it can easily become a case of lost media.

Some of the most infamous cases of games being lost media are Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the P.T. demo. The latter is especially egregious due to the full game being abruptly canceled and being exclusive to the PlayStation 4. As a result, the only way to even play the P.T. demo requires finding a PS4 that has the game installed, which is far more tedious than finding a finished digital-only game that can no longer be purchased. As media preservation is being taken more seriously across all mediums,

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The Effect of Removing the GTA Trilogy

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Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City, and San Andreas are far from being obscure titles. Their impact on video games as a medium is almost immeasurable. Deep down, Rockstar is aware of the games’ legacy, which is why Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition was made, to begin with. However, the existence of remakes and remasters does not render the originals obsolete. Sometimes, these remasters and remakes are upgrades in-name only. The Definitive Edition’s glitches and other technical issues make it a prime example of this phenomenon. The games’ disastrous launch exposed the cynical side of remastering games.

Rockstar removing the original games from Steam, the PlayStation Store, and other platforms just adds salt to the wound. However, in an attempt to make up for all the mistakes it made, Rockstar will release the original versions of the GTA trilogy on its own store. This feels like a half-baked attempt to apologize, since it excludes a plethora of Grand Theft Auto players that can either not afford a functional gaming PC or played the games on the consoles they were originally made for and continue to do so with said consoles’ successors out of habit.

By excluding console players, Rockstar does not only lose potential revenue but alienates players that might have been loyal fans for two decades now. Putting the original Grand Theft Auto Trilogy back on the PlayStation should be the bare minimum. If the entirety of the playerbase cannot experience these classic games properly like it was originally able, then Rockstar's reputation will continue to plummet.

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

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