Most companies, when caught removing something from a game box that the publisher meant to put there, might express shame or at least pretend it was an accident. Not GameStop.
Yesterday, news broke that the massive retailer had given orders to open all copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution
and remove the coupon for a free copy of the game, courtesy of OnLive.
for those of you who aren't familiar with it, is a gaming service that streams titles to a diminutive MicroConsole (if you want to play on a TV), or can be set up to stream titles directly to a Mac/PC. It's an online service that purports to be the future of gaming through digital download, and while it's not exactly in Steam's league, the success of services like XBox Arcade implies the company has its finger on a growing market.
GameStop, however, doesn't see it that way. In an email to employees, Ars reports that Field Manager Josh Ivanoff wrote: "Please immediately remove and discard the On Live [sic] coupon from all regular PC versions of Deus Ex: Human Revolution," the memo states. "Our desire is to not have this coupon go to any customers after this announcement."
Eliza Cassan. Think of her as the Nancy Grace of the 2020s, only with dark hair and a less biased take on news reporting.
Today, slammed by negative press over removing a product from game boxes, the company wrote: "Please pull all regular PC Editions of Deus Ex...As GameStop is developing a streaming service in our Spawn Labs Cloud Gaming Division, the coupon that was included is for a competitive service. We are returning all copies of the PC regular edition to the vendor in agreement with Square Enix."
Square Enix is actually on board with this decision, though given GameStop's clout in the retail space, the company could scarcely say otherwise. On the one hand, GameStop doesn't have an inherent obligation to promote a competitior--but on the other, the OnLive offer was free, meaning GameStop already recognized the full revenue of the sale. Furthermore, by removing the coupons, the company reduced the value of the game bundle as the publisher designed it. OnLive also gets the shaft on this one, seeing as Square Enix probably didn't include those coupons out of the goodness of its heart.
The entire situation speaks to the disproportionate power GameStop wields over product sales; it's deeply ironic that the battle in question is over Deus Ex: Human Revolution
, a game that's largely concerned with the flow of information and who has, or should have, access to it. GameStop will continue selling the digital version of the game while waiting on the PC version, but issues like this seem a good reason to shop for it elsewhere.