Spec Ops: The Line removed from digital storefronts due to licensing issues

Spec Ops: The Line can no longer be purchased on Steam and other digital storefronts
spec ops the line game

Acclaimed military shooter Spec Ops: The Line was suddenly pulled from Steam and other digital storefronts on Tuesday, with seemingly little explanation about why it was no longer available for purchase. A simple notice on the Steam store read: “Spec Ops: The Line is no longer available on the Steam store.”

Now, publisher 2K Games has confirmed the game has been pulled due to the expiry of certain partner licenses. While initially speculated to be a mistake, it now appears the game’s removal is intentional, and that it may not return in future.

Spec Ops: The Line will no longer be available on online storefronts, as several partnership licenses related to the game are expiring,” 2K Games told reporter Stephen Totilo in response to an enquiry. “Players who have purchased the game can still download and play the game uninterrupted. 2K would like to thank our community of players who have supported the game, and we look forward to bringing you more offerings from our label throughout this year and beyond.”

Based on the wording here, it appears 2K Games does not plan to renew the licenses for the game, suggesting its removal will be permanent.

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Those who own the game either physically or digitally will maintain their ownership – but for everyone else, Spec Ops: The Line will no longer be available. As a result, it’s likely physical copies of the game will become rarer and more expensive.

Unfortunately, this has become common with games of the 2010s for numerous reasons. During this period, adoption of licensed music became more common, for example, as games had larger budgets and were becoming more lucrative. A side effect of including licensed music is that games are subject to strict licensing rules – and that many games are forced off digital storefronts once their licensing period ends.

Alan Wake has suffered this fate in the past, as it uses multiple licensed music tracks. Games from the Metal Gear Solid series have also had similar issues.

While these games eventually returned under new licensing arrangements, their removal sparked significant concerns around game preservation. As developers increasingly move to digital-only releases, this issue has become far more relevant. Player ownership is typically maintained even after games are removed from digital storefronts – but with no physical backup and only short-term partner licenses for some games, the risk of losing owned digital games is growing.

Those who already own a digital or physical copy of Spec Ops: The Line can rest assured they will still own the game into the future – but for now, it appears no new players will be able to purchase it on Steam and other storefronts.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.