We’re through, GameStop.
I turned a blind eye when you offered me peanuts for a game that you were still slinging used for bucks shy of full retail. I shrugged it off when your employees endlessly pressured me to pre-order games that I didn’t want every time I set foot in the store. I laughed when I was turned away for trying to buy a new release on launch day sans preorder, only to have a copy miraculously appear as I went to leave. These were all prices I was willing to pay, I figured, to support one of the last remaining brick and mortar game stores.
But breaking the seal on brand new copies of games to take out (valuable!) things you don’t like, then selling the game as new? Yeah, I quit you.
Here’s the deal:
Yesterday morning, a long awaited title called Deus Ex: Human Revolution was finally released to an eager audience. Tucked inside the box was a little surprise: a coupon for a free copy of the same game through the still relatively new game streaming service, OnLive — something which, if purchased directly through OnLive, would cost $49.99. At least, there was supposed to be a coupon…
The reports started trickling in fairly quickly: for some reason, the coupon seemed to be absent from nearly all copies sold through GameStop.
What had happened? Had the folks at the factory forgotten to pack some of the coupons? Nope. Had GameStop worked out a distribution deal to keep the coupons from ever finding their way into their copies? Nope.
GameStop employees had opened the boxes, removed the coupon, and put the product back on the shelf… after orders from above to do so.
The first evidence came from an e-mail acquired by GameSpy, allegedly sent by a GameStop Field Operations Manager. The key bit is bullet point #1:
“Please immediately remove and discard the OnLive coupon from all Regular PC versions of Deus Ex: Human Revolution,” it read. Surely, this couldn’t be real! A corporate command to open a sealed product, throw out something tradable for a $50 product, and act like nothing happened?
But sure enough, GameStop followed up with confirmation on Facebook after word got out:
Regarding the Deus Ex OnLive Codes: GameStop’s policy is that we do not promote competitive services without a formal partnership.
Square Enix packed a competitor’s coupon within the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution without our prior knowledge and we did pull these coupons.
While the new products may be opened, we fully guarantee the condition of the discs to be new. If you find this to not be the case, please contact the store where the game was purchased and they will further assist.
Note the wording. “May be” opened? Try “are” opened. And what a guarantee! If your disc doesn’t work for some reason, they’ll give you a new ( presumably equally stripped down) copy. But if you’re just pissed that you’ve been shorted a coupon worth $50? La la la la, we can’t hear you.
The GameStop-owned service with which OnLive is a “competing service” is called Impulse, which GameStop launched back in July after acquiring Spawn Labs.
Look, GameStop: if you want to work out a deal with the distributor to get special copies without the coupons, that’s reasonable. People will still be annoyed they got shortchanged, but it’s at least not incredibly shady. But opening a sealed box, removing a coupon exchangeable for a $50 product, and then sticking it back on the shelf? Terrible. Could a customer have walked in, purchased the game, removed the coupon, and returned the box for a full refund? No? Then this is not okay.
Alas, they went with the shady route — and now they’ve gone and given OnLive far more marketing than that silly coupon ever would have.