Tuesday saw the launch of the highly-anticipated third installment of the Deus Ex series, Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DXHR). The game arrived for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC, but the latter non-console version also came packed with a voucher for free access to the game on OnLive (aka Full Pass). Essentially PC gamers were able to waltz into any retailer, purchase a copy of DXHR on PC, and get a streaming version free thanks to a deal made between Square Enix and OnLive. Naturally GameStop wasn't thrilled with the idea.
Why? Because it's gearing up to launch its own competing game streaming service that includes Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC games. That said, the games retailer felt it had the right to tell its staff to pull the boxed PC games off its shelves, break into the packaging, and remove the OnLive code vouchers. GameStop even released a company-wide message stating that "our desire is to not have this coupon go to any customers after this announcement."
Did GameStop deny its actions? Absolutely not.
"Regarding the Deus Ex: Human Revolution OnLive Codes: We don't make a habit of promoting competitive services without a formal partnership," GameStop said on its Facebook page. "Square Enix packed the competitor's coupon with our DXHR product 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."
After the gaming community began to thrash GameStop for its blatant theft of a service both Square Enix and OnLive included with the purchase, the retailer decided to simply yank it completely from its shelves, leaving the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version untouched.
"The company instructs employees to remove any retail copies of the PC version of the game to the back room of the store pending recall at a later date," Kotaku reports based on an anonymous source but confirmed by GameStop employees. "Note that the recall is being performed in agreement with Square Enix, indicating the two companies have been in communication regarding the situation."
Gamespy said that it consulted with its resident legal expert to see if removing the coupons was actually legal, and was told that it depends on the legal agreements GameStop has with Square Enix. It also depends on the contact between OnLive and Square Enix.
"Obviously, when one corporation tries to submarine another, and goes about it in a more or less shady way, it looks bad," Los Angeles-based attorney Eric Neigher told GameSpy. "But, from a legal perspective, a lot depends on what kinds of contracts OnLive had with Square, and in turn that Square had with GameStop. If removing this coupon from the PC boxes violated the terms of that contract, obviously GameStop is liable to be sued. If not, there's still an issue as to their responsibility to give purchasers what they expect to be paying for, including, perhaps, marketing materials."
But if Square Enix is willingly taking back its copies of DXHR from GameStop, then all may be peachy-keen between the two. Still, the removal of the coupons looks like theft, and doesn't help the retailer's already sketchy-looking business practices as it is.
Currently we're waiting on a comment from OnLive.