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Rockstar fixes launcher bug that made Grand Theft Auto 5 always-online

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PC gamers suspected the worst, but there’s a fix

Gallery Photo: Grand Theft Auto 5 gets nine new screenshots from E3 Rockstar Games

PC gamers who have installed Rockstar Games’ new, proprietary launcher say it effectively turns their copies of Grand Theft Auto 5 into an always-online game — even the single-player portions.

Based on a Rockstar Games support entry posted online, this could be unintentional. “We are aware of an issue that is affecting some players’ ability to play in Offline Mode and we are currently looking into it,” Rockstar wrote in the ticket. Regardless, the timing is terrible for Rockstar, which announced the new launcher on Tuesday and offered a free copy of 2004’s Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as an inducement for downloading it. PC gamers now suspect the publisher had ulterior DRM motives for games they bought elsewhere.

“There are two levels of online checking now,” reported redditor Average_Tnetennba. “The launcher flat out refuses to run when blocked on my firewall. […] But there’s also an ‘activation check’ when the game is already booting up now that fails when my firewall blocks GTA5.exe.” The player had blocked that executable because they only used GTA 5’s single-player modes.

“The game is now always-online for its single-player,” they said. “If your internet is down briefly or the Rockstar servers are down, you won’t be able to play single-player.”

PC gamers ordinarily aren’t a trusting lot, but Rockstar in particular has a bad rep on the platform. Some rehashed past poor treatment or missteps — like updating the PC version of San Andreas with a port of its mobile version to Steam.

The Epic Games Store, which also requires another launcher, is persona non grata among a vocal segment of PC gamers for that reason, with some alleging that the launcher installs spyware (owing to Chinese company Tencent’s 40 percent stake in Epic). Epic strenuously denies that accusation, but it persists. That’s the kind of thing Rockstar will be up against now as it tries to get into the proprietary storefront business.

The Rockstar Games Launcher is currently selling six games, with older titles at $9.99 and Grand Theft Auto 5: Premium Edition at $34.98. Existing copies of these games are supposed to transition, along with game saves, into the new launcher.

We’ve reached out to a Rockstar Games representative to ask for more detail on what the launcher is doing here, whether this is intentional, and what the company plans to do about it.

Update (Sept. 19): A Rockstar Games representative confirmed the always-online requirement is a bug and not intentional, and added that no changes were made to Grand Theft Auto 5’s DRM. The publisher’s support staff is working on a fix but no timeframe was available.

Update (Sept. 20): The issue has been resolved. Apparently it was an issue with updating Grand Theft Auto 5 within the new launcher itself. Rockstar Games support has the specific instructions.