GameStop's Attempt to Suppress OnLive Actually Made Everyone Aware of OnLive, Oops

The gut reaction to GameStop pulling OnLive coupons en masse from retail PC copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution usually includes the words “how dare they,” or something to that effect. The legality of it all has been discussed to death, with mentions of tortious interference floating about, and GameStop has come under fire for the missive pretty much unanimously.

Except for the fact that Square Enix issued what amounts to a public apology and acknowledgement that they had not previously informed GameStop of their third party coupon inclusion.

Obviously, whenever the publisher, developer, or whoever includes something in the packaging, the end consumer is going to feel cheated if they don’t receive the full product. Cutting open factory sealed copies in order to remove a slip of paper and then selling them as new anyway is, ethically speaking, kind of shady. But so is trying to slip coupons into the games for one of GameStop’s direct competitors.

For anyone following the business aspect of the whole thing, you might recall that at the same time GameStop was picking up Impulse, the Steam-competing digital portal from Stardock, that they also acquired Spawn Labs. Spawn Labs, as it so happens, was working on digital streaming of video games prior to their acquisition. One guess as to what they are apparently still working on.

Now, granted, the public handling of this situation could have been much, much better, but what exactly is GameStop supposed to do? Continue to let the coupons go out the door that they were unaware of and are opposite their own goals and intentions? Everyone loves to make comparisons, and there are a number already attached to this story around the web, but it would be like asking GameStop to sell Mortal Kombat with a free subscription to @Gamer.

So, here it is, the unpopular opinion that readers might have suspected I hold; GameStop had every right to pull the OnLive coupon from their retail PC copies. Should they have done so? Probably not. All they have accomplished is earning the ire from the PC customers that they have remaining after years of neglect. Best case scenario, they should have informed their customers that they were removing them versus silence or feigned ignorance on the matter.

Pulling the boxes from the shelves should have been the first reaction, annoying as it is. How likely is it, after all, that GameStop is going to lose out on tons of business from the market sector they, historically, paid the least attention to? In addition, pulling the PC copies wouldn’t have amounted to as much hassle as opening them up, putting them back together and back on display. It’s not as if they are going to have the same stock of PC copies as they are of the console versions.

To reiterate, Deus Ex might be a known PC franchise, but GameStop is mostly a purveyor of console experiences. This whole debacle reflects what is known as a vocal minority of customers. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t allowed to be upset or displeased with the actions of America’s largest bricks-and-mortar game chain, just that the overall perception of the issue at hand is inflated.

What it comes down to is that the whole chain, from publisher to consumer, made some mistakes along the way. Square Enix failed to alert GameStop to the third party coupon, GameStop made the worst call it could possibly make in dealing with it and the consumer immediately blamed GameStop for the entire failure. If nothing else, the fiasco reveals just how quickly folks will jump to blame the most obvious suspect.

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