GameStop Ex Machina: Store Removes OnLive Coupons from Deus Ex Games

This article was originally published for the now-defunct video game blog Site of the Gaming Dead on August 28, 2011. I have done my best to recreate the article as it was originally published, complete with images (when possible).

Video game–and movie–retailer GameStop isn’t making any friends this week after news broke that Josh Ivanoff, Field Operations Manager for the chain ordered employees to remove all copies of the OnLive coupon contained in each regular PC copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the new Square-Enix/formerly Eidos title, the third in the series and a prequel to the first game. Chaos ensued.

The coupon, which wasn’t advertised on the box, was pre-packaged by Square-Enix. Mixed reports from across the nation have indicated that some employees immediately followed Ivanoff’s memo and removed the coupons from their copies of the game (not the special “Augmented Edition”), while others have said their coupon was left intact. Square-Enix agreed to have unsold copies of the game sent back to them, presumably for re-packaging without the coupon. Of course, that’s not to say they couldn’t just send those coupon-containing boxes to another retailer that isn’t so uppity about gamers trying new things, right?

OnLive, a new digital streaming service developed by entrepreneur Steve Perlman, will allow gamers to play games over their broadband Internet connection, rather than having to buy a physical copy or download and install the game, thereby taking up disk space on what typically has to be a higher-end computer. This is similar to how Netflix operates with movies, which would understandably give GameStop, the nation’s largest video game retailer, cause for concern. After all, once Netflix entered the movie game, brick-and-mortar movie rental outlets like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video went the way of the dodo.

The trend nowadays is everything “as a service,” operating in the great Internet “cloud,” where everything you want, need and enjoy is accessible from any Internet-enabled device, whether that’s your mobile phone, computer, portable game console, or a TV-attached console. OnLive operates similarly, via your Mac, PC, or your TV using OnLive’s own “MicroConsole,” a small black box with few of the bells and whistles that competing boxes, like Sony’s Playstation 3 or Microsoft’s XBOX 360 offer.

According to Beth Sharum, a GameStop spokesperson who spoke with Ars Technica, “Square Enix packed the competitor’s coupon with our DXHR product without our prior knowledge and we did pull these coupons.” But in an effort to appease all those customers who were prevented from trying out the new digital streaming game service–which normally retails at $50–GameStop is giving away $50 store gift cards, along with a two-for-one deal on used games. However, this offer is not mentioned on GameStop’s website, or on their Deus Ex: Human Revolution product detail page. The only people that found out about it were those that purchased the game via GameStop’s website or certain members of GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards program and newsletter delivery service.

Still, it doesn’t change the fact that GameStop, which is reportedly testing out its own online streaming game service for release in the first half of 2012, shortchanged these customers to begin with. It would have been one thing if they had replaced the OnLive coupons with the $50 gift cards and their two-for-one deal to begin with, but they didn’t. It was only after a public outcry that they decided to own up to their very big mistake, having nothing truly comparable to offer, even though “competition” is really the name of this game.

GameStop’s service, whenever it does roll out, will have one leg up on OnLive in that it will work with gamers’ existing consoles, like XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3, as well as smart TVs, according to GameStop President Tony Bartel in a report from

GameStop purchased Spawn Labs earlier this year and is already making use of the Spawn technology in an early beta of the cloud-based service in Austin, Texas. Still, the closed beta isn’t expected to go national just yet, and details about the service and what it will entail are still a mystery.

In the meantime, GameStop should just let gamers experiment with different ways to enjoy what they love and already shell out so many millions of dollars for each year–not just for the games, but the strategy guides, the consoles, the special tricked-out controllers, and heck knows how many other things.

Until GameStop has something truly comparable to OnLive to offer, their sticky fingers should stay out of our Deus Ex: Human Revolution (and any other game that may offer said coupon) boxes, because only us gamers (yeah, the ones GameStop mentions in their slogan “Power to the Players”) can be the true judges of whether their belated apology is worth the paper it’s printed on.