Grand Theft Auto 4, released back in 2008, is nearing the tenth anniversary of its launch. As important a milestone such as that is, it is overshadowed by something that will change a small part of the game forever.
Many licensed songs present on the in-game radio stations will be removed on the 29th of April and be replaced with a new set of tracks.
Upon the 10th anniversary of GTA 4's release, many of the music licenses Rockstar negotiated are going to expire, meaning their continued use in the game would open the developers, and their parent company Take-Two Interactive, to legal attacks.
As such, a patch will be released to remove the files of each expired song and replace them with new ones. At this stage it is unclear whether the number of replacement songs will be equal to those removed.
It's likely that the replacement songs will be ones present in other Take-Two titles, since negotiating new licenses for a 10-year-old game probably isn't worth the trouble.
Rockstar's statement indicates that Vladivostok FM, which played catchy Russian pop, will be the hardest hit with almost all of its songs expiring.
The exact list of songs to be removed hasn't been published, and very possibly won't be at all, so we'll have to wait until the patch rolls around and someone compares the song list in the game files (which is much easier than going through all songs in-game and comparing them).
If you're attached to the current song selection, there are a number of ways to escape this change, depending on what platform you have the game on.
For PC users, on Steam you need to disable automatic updates and prevent the game from patching itself, whereas with non-Steam versions, you can disable Games For Windows Live (something you well should do anyway, if you haven't already), and make a backup of the song files just in case.
For Steam, you can also de-list the game from your library, then add it back as a non-Steam game to make sure the client never tries to update it. Similarly, simply disable updates for the game on consoles.
Similar changes happened to Vice City and San Andreas when those games turned 10, however the difference was that existing owners didn't have their games altered, and only new purchases contained different music.
This move with GTA 4 and the running change to existing copies has sparked a debate among fans regarding the fairness of removing content from a product which was purchased along with said content.
This is another one of those cases which shines light on the shortcomings of copyright law, which has been largely unchanged since before the dawn of the internet age, resulting in odd situations such as this. It also raises the question of why Take-Two didn't negotiate lifetime licenses, as movie studios do.
Either way, some songs will be removed from GTA 4 near the end of April, unless you prevent your copy from updating itself.