According to a confirmed report by Ars Technica’s Ben Kuchera, games retailer GameStop has been removing packed-in codes shipped with Square Enix’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution without customer knowledge.
The codes are a giveaway by Square Enix with new copies of the PC version of the game, allowing the game to be played on streaming service OnLive. Ars acquired a memo sent by Field Operations Manager Josh Ivanoff stating that employees were to open the game up and remove the coupon, and that “(their) desire is to not have this coupon go to any customers after this announcement.” GameStop spokesperson Beth Sharum has confirmed that this is a company directive, stating that Square Enix “packed the competitor’s coupon with our DXHR product without our prior knowledge and we did pull these coupons.”
GameStop has made heavy inroads into the digital market recently, acquiring Spawn Labs with the intention of having them put out a cloud-based service that would directly compete with OnLive. They also acquired Stardock’s Impulse distribution platform in April. In their most recent financial report, GameStop’s sales were down 3.1% compared to Q2 of 2010, though they are expecting 50% digital growth over the fiscal year.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution released on Tuesday, to critical praise.
Analysis: GameStop didn’t just pull something. They directly lied to their customers and made decisions that they, quite frankly, don’t have a right to do. Their reasoning for the decision is understandable: they don’t want to aid someone who is a direct competitor. But the one and only choice they have if this is their top priority is to pull the title from their shelves. Of course, DXHR is a AAA release that is looking to fly off of shelves now that reviews are scoring in the 90s, so they’d rather hope their customers are too stupid to know better.
GameStop has done more than just cynically affect their customers: they’ve opened themselves up to a class action lawsuit. The PC copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution at GameStop is decidedly less valuable than one that a consumer could get at Best Buy, Walmart, or any other brick-and-mortar retailer, for the same price. And since GameStop doesn’t take returns on opened product, customers who bought their game at GameStop are effectively screwed. Not to mention that GameStop has once again shown an extremely cavalier attitude to what a “new” (read: sealed) game is, which has been an ongoing complaint about the company for years.
This could potentially destroy customer goodwill towards a company that is facing competition and issues from areas of the games industry that they don’t control with a monopoly. As games go more digital, GameStop is trying to adjust, and the transition is still unsure at this point. However, the GameStop name is toxic to a significant portion of the customer base, and some companies have even threatened to pull their games from Impulse now that GameStop owns them. They simply cannot anger their customers like this—especially with no warning whatsoever—just because they want to wage a corporate battle against an up-and-coming competitor that is light years above the heads of the average consumer.