Wednesday, August 24, 2011

GameStop pulling OnLive coupons from new boxes of Deus Ex: Human Revolution

As a special surprise for purchasers of the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the game’s publisher Square Enix included a coupon for a free version of the game on OnLive, a cloud-based game platform that doesn’t have any hardware requirements, all you need is an internet connection.

A commenter on Joystiq warned potential customers not to buy the game from GameStop, as they instructed their employees to pull the coupon from new retail copies.

GameStop, who recently acquired streaming company Spawn Labs and digital distributor Impulse, sent an email memo to their stores, instructing as follows, “Please immediately remove and discard the On Live coupon from all Regular PC versions of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Our desire is to not have this coupon go to any customers after this announcement.”

GameSpy acquired a photo of the email sent out by GameStop management. When GameSpy contacted GameStop public relations representative Beth Sharum, she confirmed that GameStop purposely removed the OnLive coupons. “Square Enix packed the competitor's coupon with our DXHR product without our prior knowledge and we did pull and discard these coupons,” she said.

Ars Technica also contacted Sharum, where she again confirmed that GameStop was indeed pulling the coupon from new retail copies of the game. OnLive is aware of the issue, but were not ready to make a comment. Square Enix declined to comment on the matter.

Wired spoke with game industry expert and lawyer Mark Methenitis in a phone interview, who said the memo could permit because the OnLive coupon is not an “essential function” of the new game. He did note that Square Enix and OnLive “may have a claim against GameStop in terms of tortious interference.”

Tortious interference is the result of one party intentionally damage another party’s business contracts or relationships. Though GameStop potentially infringed upon US economic tort law, Methenitis thinks there wouldn’t be much of a case. Nothing on the game’s box or packaging hints that an OnLive code is included, and GameStop could have the right to remove the coupon if its inclusion broke any agreements Square Enix had with the retailer.

“Existing contracts between GameStop and Square may have barred this kind of promotion, and so GameStop may actually be justified in their action if Square is in breach of some promotion/marketing agreement,” Methenitis said in the phone interview.

Update: GameStop is pulling remaining copies of the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution from their stores. GameStop told CNN that it would not stock the game until Square Enix ships a version without the OnLive coupon.A contact from GameStop sent the author of the Wired article the following image.

Second Update: Square Enix issued a statement about including the OnLive coupon in retail PC boxes of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Square Enix claims fault for the issue, and encourages customers who wish to purchase the game, sans coupon, to do so at any GameStop store or their website.

“As part of Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s boxed offering on PC, Square Enix included a third party coupon. GameStop was not made aware of this inclusion and Square Enix respects the right of GameStop to have final say over the contents of products it sells and to adjust them where they see fit in accordance with their policies.”

“Square Enix invites gamers who want to purchase the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution without additional coupons to buy the game at any one of over 4000 GameStop stores in North America, or purchase a digital download copy online from”

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