Microsoft has long boasted about the backward compatibility of its Xbox consoles, letting you play hundreds of past-gen games on newer systems like the 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, in the form of a popular first-party game, 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 on Xbox’s digital download shops. That date marks roughly four years past the game’s 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.
I’ve been pointing this out for a few years, and I’m glad that others are noticing. it’s not just Microsoft’s Game Pass that’s broken, it’s the whole backward compatibility and “love of preservation” that Microsoft pretends to care about. As Machkovech goes on to note, this particular delisting is even odder because there isn’t a newer Forza Motorsport game on the horizon. Although, there is a new Forza Horizon game on the way. Of course the versions on disc will continue to function, but it is exceptionally odd that beloved games like the Forza series can just up and disappear from Microsoft’s digital store. It is kind of nice that Microsoft heavily discounts these games before they’re delisted, the “ultimate” version of Forza Motorsport 7 is only $20 right now, but it’d be better if they didn’t get delisted. If Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and Valve, and all the other companies selling games digitally want us to buy games from them digitally, they should make sure someone who loved an earlier version of the game and wants to go back is able to.
Notably, when Microsoft returned to Steam with their games, Forza Motorsport 7 wasn’t on that list. Only the Forza Horizon games are on Steam.
I love the Forza Horizon series and the first Forza Motorsport was the last game I worked on at Microsoft, it makes me sad that these games aren’t better preserved for anyone who wants to play them and watch them evolve over time. The last few versions of the Horizon games have been particularly interesting with their different open worlds to play in, they’re not just replicating famous race tracks, they even have tie-ins to various fun toy lines like Hot Wheels and Lego.