GameStop cuts coupon, ethical corners

Retailer's actions in Deus Ex debacle will ultimately do nothing but help increase awareness of, affection for competitor's streaming service.

As the transition from retail games to a downloadable business heightens tension between retailers and publishers, gamers have been getting the short end of the stick with concerning regularity. However, usually the harm to the consumer comes in the form of Byzantine preorder incentive schemes or senseless limitations on content, such as a fully downloadable version of Madden NFL 12 that must be replaced by a physical copy after three days.

GameStop's tactic could backfire pretty badly.

However, this week saw the anti-consumer consequences of the digital pissing contest taken to a new level, with GameStop removing redemption codes for a free and fully functioning OnLive edition of Deus Ex: Human Revolution from its retail PC copies of the game. Reasoning that OnLive is competition and that such advertising for the competition is not desirable, GameStop removed those codes from its retail copies before selling the opened boxes to unaware customers as new.

Square Enix has advertised the OnLive code as a selling point for the PC version of the game. It is assumed to be included in the purchase of a new copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The code itself has value. Purchasing Deus Ex: Human Revolution access from OnLive costs $50. Even the one-time-use codes that GameStop is presumably discarding have value, as evidenced by eBay auctions that show savvy gamers selling them to defray the cost of the game by nearly $20 (with two days left for bidders to push that price higher).

I understand GameStop's position. It is a traditional brick-and-mortar outlet that sees the rise of digital distribution as a dire threat first and a potential opportunity second. OnLive is a clear competitor, not just because it sells the same games to players, but because GameStop acquired a separate company to offer its own streaming service starting next year. The two big hurdles in getting traditional retail consumers to go digital are creating a great service and then convincing people to try it out.

Giving away a streaming copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution for free with every physical copy of the game is a brilliant play by OnLive. Even if gamers aren't already interested in streaming game services, they're likely to try it out just to see how it compares with the experience of playing off a physical copy. And given that one of the target markets for OnLive is gamers with a good Internet connection but otherwise underpowered rigs, that audience is that much more likely to consider streaming as good as, if not better than, what they can manage playing a disc on outdated hardware. So if GameStop is coming to the streaming party two years late (OnLive launched in June of 2010), the retailer might wind up having to not only sell new people on the benefits of streaming, but also topple an entrenched pioneer in the segment.

You could even say the brick and mortar retailer's vision has been somehow impaired.

So I may sympathize with GameStop's situation, but in its exceedingly finite wisdom, the company has chosen possibly the worst way to go about achieving its goal, from a consumer's perspective. If it felt so strongly about not helping out the competition, it could have always just opted not to sell the PC version of the game and instead offered affected customers an apology and an explanation instead of swiping the coupons out and hoping nobody would notice. (Shortly after the publication of this editorial, GameStop did just that, pulling all physical copies of the PC version from shelves and refusing to sell any more until Square Enix provides copies of the game without the coupon included.)

Selling customers gutted boxed copies of PC games for full price is both deceptive and disrespectful, not to mention self-defeating. The retailer's shady decision to undercut OnLive is a top story on every gaming site today, including the GameStop-owned Game Informer. And I can guarantee that this won't be the only editorial screed to take GameStop to task today. So in treating its customers and business partners with disdain (if not outright contempt), GameStop has damaged its own reputation with the core PC gaming audience that would be most likely to try out its upcoming streaming service. It has also done little more than cast OnLive as David to its own Goliath and given the upstart a healthy boost of name recognition in the process.

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192 comments
squidracerX
squidracerX

they gave out $50 gift cards to anyone who bought the PC version, (at least my local one did) so they gave you the game for free if you lost the coupon due to this SHORT debacle, so no worries they made better than good on this. My buddy has DE3 with no coupon but got a $50 card free. And he bought Duke Nukem with it, no lie! hahahahah idiot!

NaryuKick
NaryuKick

@Tarjanian EB was bought out by Gamestop. Gamestop just changed alot of policies to EB policies afterwords. Due to the EB president becoming Gstops vice-president.

Tarjanian
Tarjanian

@NaryuKick Hmm...I thought EB was bought out by Gamestop...sorry for my mistake...you learn something new every day. I guess what I was saying is that when I worked for EB back in '98 it was better than I remember it now.

STRIPPINED
STRIPPINED

This is biggest problem with Gamestop, always opening new products.If I pay the price for new I expect It to be factory sealed.At least three times in the past couple of years I bought new PC games from Gamestop they were opened and the codes had been used.Everytime I had to return the game and get another copy.As a result I won't buy new games there unless they are sealed.Unless I read this wrong you only got the free game coupon if you bought the game in the first place so what is the problem?Wasn't it for the same game you just bought?

NaryuKick
NaryuKick

@tsunami2311 Gamestop was sued over this about 6-7 years ago. I was still working for them when it happened. A kid in California sued because his new copy was opened and was sold to him as new. It was settled out of court, and we were not allowed to know the details of the settlement.

NaryuKick
NaryuKick

@Tarjanian EB policies replaced almost every Gamestop policy after the buyout. One instance for example, is when i took my daughter to the doctor and got turned away because my insurance was cancelled. when i called HR about it, I was told that the EB policy was taken on where only store managers got insurance, and Asst. Mgrs. and 3rd key mgrs. were no longer eligible. I was an assistant manager, and had all the same responsibility but was not worth insurance. It was a huge reason why I left the company. Gamestop used to be a company filled with stores run by gamers, and we all had a passion for what we were doing. You ask anyone who was a Gamestop employee from before the buyout, and they will tell you that EB ruined the company, not the other way around.

Edge15
Edge15

@Jaichimfizzler If opened but unused games for PC's are still new, then why will no retail store take them back if they haven't been "used". When it comes to retail, once the game package has been opened, it is considered used, whether or not you actually used it. Especially with PC games. By opening the games, they made them used games by their own definition. To say otherwise on their part, would make them hypocrites (which wouldn't surprise me.)

stan_boyd
stan_boyd

While I hate gamestop, it was their right to do this, if you go to pretty much any company you won't find them handing out coupons for their competitors. If you go to a Ford dealership they won't give you a coupon for a honda, if you go to mcdonalds they don't give you coupons for wendy's etc etc. I can't blame gamestop for this one, I'd do the same thing. But they are still bastards for selling a used copy of a game for 5 dollars less than a new copy and giving me next to nothing on trade-ins.

THUGDRAFT
THUGDRAFT

I'll just say that for anyone reading this, you really can choose to not buy your games from GameStop regardless of where you live. Order it online, or hell, even buy it from a big box retailer instead. And you might as well buy them new considering how little you actually save by buying used games at GameStop. Otherwise, wait for the price to drop months after the initial release. At the end of the day, it won't inconvenience you much if at all to do any of the above and you will be supporting the developers and the industry that you love. TL;DR -- F*** GameStop. Shop elsewhere.

jmrwacko
jmrwacko

DOWNVOTE EVERYONE WHO'S SYMPATHETIC TO GAMESTOP (even though you will all be purchasing games from Gamestop in the future, anyway)

MoK86
MoK86

oh i agree and i hope that gamestop goes away!! I worked at that place for 3yrs and i hated every minute of how that company runs. its bad enough that they charge full price on new games that are gutted and they sell them at full price. i could not understand the concept of it and gamestop's answer to that is about representing the product but all gamestop does is advertise so why did they need to open all new games? before the game even comes out they have empty display cases on the wall. on the window and on the back shelf of every store. GAMESLOP is a Rip off!! oh and if its true that Gameinformer is posting this news on the next magazine im sure gamestop is gonna make them stop because last time i was working for GS they had us remove every issue of PSM magazine and to discard them and the reason for that was because PSM magazine made a comment about how buying games used affects the game industry and just stores like GS profit off it. but it's all TRUE!!

Unholy123
Unholy123

Honestly this is just gamestop stepping over a line... opening something then removing something from it THEN selling it full price and without disclosing the fact they have TAMPERED with my product? oh hellz no sir honestly if this had happened to me I would have come back to that store and torn the ass from whoever was working the returns department.

Kingjames11
Kingjames11

You know all those products at the grocery store that offer "33% More for Free?" Well guess what? Gamestop just dumped your extra 33% down the drain and then sold it to you as if 33% was still included. Such a dick move on Gamestop's part. Way to screw the people that made your company what it is.

DaNubianPryns
DaNubianPryns

Tangent: Gamestop needs to change their business practices, beginning with the fact that they sell opened copies of 'new' games. The main concern I have with this is them pawning off opened merchandise as "new" with no discount because they need a "display box" for their shelves. Bull, that's not my or any other consumers problem. So, let me get this straight, Gamestop. You want me to pay $60 + tax for the last or 2nd to last copy of a "new" game that has been sitting on your shelf since the game launched? And, I'm supposed to let that fly? No, thank you. I will use a few analogies such as prescription drugs, food items, or a myriad of other merchandise. They have seals/packaging on them for a fairly obvious reason, some even stating that you should not use if said seal is broken. I feel the same way about Gamestop selling new, opened games. It's just not right. If their streaming service doesn't jump off, which I doubt it will, Gamestop will be on its way out as a video game retailer, the present debacle and other unscrupulous practices notwithstanding.

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

@jekyll Cloud gaming affords the publisher complete control over your experience, and leaves you with next to none. It's not a product, nothing you spend money on becomes yours, you simply pay for the right to utilize OnLive's software and hardware. It may be convenient, but will do nothing good for the industry.

KamuiFei
KamuiFei

Last paragraph is very true. Gamestop screwed themselves over by making OnLive more popular and only added to an already notorious rep when it comes to their customers.

Adap7ive
Adap7ive

@squidracerX I can see how that could work. I suppose we'll see if there is a court record.

demondogx
demondogx

for all those who dont understand why its sush a big deal if they open up a game to change its contents let me explain for one with this it was just a coupon for an online service (i personaly dont care about that but some others may) but imagine you buy a game with a dlc,online pass or pre purchare that has been opened you never know what might have done to the dlc code it could have already been used and you have to buy it again as dlc or you cant use it at all as pre purchare same goes for online passes on the second part it is bad towards the company who made the game if they had a deal with a third party program that for an amount of money they would advertise there service and this gets taken out of the box they really payed for nothing because the costumer will never see the add with will make the game company get in trouble with the third party and might take away future changes of the 2 working together p.s. sorry for my bad english not my main languege :D

SparksWattson
SparksWattson

@Jaichimfizzler what's to stop someone within the company taking other information from inside the packagin like the registration code?

Vari3ty
Vari3ty

Well GameStop, your day of reckoning is coming.

soulless4now
soulless4now

"New" my ass. Once a game is opened by anyone, it becomes used whether or not it's been played. GameStop seems to sink to a new low every year.

Tunecci
Tunecci

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Vicsporche
Vicsporche

What I find funny about gamestop is that they are complaining that these fliers are promoting their competition, which is true, it allows us to download the game for free on Onlive, regardless of competition, I've learned through experiences and business school, that hell if your good to your customers, and treat them with respect, they will be loyal to you, this flier from OnLive, woudn't make a damn difference, gamestop is afraid to loose customers, gamestop knows they have been on a downward spiral for some time now, that's why they introduced the rewards card, which is a big flop, and it offers no real WOW incentives. This is a joke on gamestop's behalf perhaps if they took more time caring for their customers, instead of taking fliers out of games, they wouldn't have to worry about competitors!

skullandbones91
skullandbones91

thats why i totally love selling my no longer working games to gamestop

Jaichimfizzler
Jaichimfizzler

Also, America in general is apathetic, you all realize regardless of this blowup, 3 months down the line no one will give a crap, except for everyone here who already gives a crap and wasn't shopping at GameStop to begin with, I will still go there, because they have always treated me well, pointed me towards the better games and steer me away from the bad ones, and they have come to understand my particulars when it comes to buying games and always work with me. I love steam, but when I go looking at something and buy it, and it turns out to be crap, thats that, I just lost whatever money I spent.

100proofsoco
100proofsoco

Anyone saying that Gameflop was within their rights to STEAL the coupon out of an UNOPENED package, is out of their friggin mind. No sane person can say, "Yep I don't mind if they open my product, take some stuff out, and sell it to me, yep that sounds good" Gameflop basically said "we don't care what the publisher wanted to give you, you'll take what we give you."

Jaichimfizzler
Jaichimfizzler

I do not understand why people are so upset over opened copies of games. The PC games are not used, thus there is no deception, they are simply opened and the game removed so customers can look at the case and find out about the game without Gamestop having to task there employees to hound every person touching a game case. Its not used, until someone actually uses it, like putting it in a computer, installing it, and playing it, as to have a used product, you have to use it first. That being said this has been a very stupid move, I am imagining some higher ups are going to get let go for making this bad decision.

dmdavenport
dmdavenport

Don't have a dog in this fight, 'cause I use consoles for gaming. But I like my local Gamestop and the guys that work there are pretty savvy about saving me some bucks on pre-orders and the like. OK, they rushed this decision and realized it was stupid, but that doesn't make them the Big Evil you pc players think it is. Besides, streaming sucks - you have to have a high-speed, high-price connection and you can't trade it in - ever.

dwilson65
dwilson65

Theft is Theft Gamestop can take my powerup card back and shove it... I hate thevies

saint311
saint311

I'll always go to Gamestop. At least one of the many near where I live. As long as that one continues to employ attractive females (yeah, seriously), I'm willing to buy hard copies instead of Steam. If I ever decide to go anti-Gamestop, then it's Fry's. F Best Buy.

redrabbit65
redrabbit65

Call me hyprocrite I am a member of their Power Rewards club or whatever they call it, trading in my DSi for a 3ds (and my son doing the same) netted me a couple of sweet Killzone 3 t-shirts out of the deal, and I do enjoy getting GI in the mail. However, I do NOT purchase 'new' games at Gamestop EVER but instead spread the wealth to Best Buy who, in my opinion, provides a much better reward structure for buying new games and gaming acessories than Gamestop. Gamestop rewards are like Chuckie frigging Cheese, charging thousands of points for chintzy rubber bracelets, please! I've had a gank over their 'opened game same as new' crap since day one and simply adjusted my buying practices. It seems as though I might have to take a Gamestop stand in a more decisive manner.

Mohjong
Mohjong

The correct way for gamespot to do it is to send the stuff back, have all the coupons taken out by Square Enix (or swap with a gamespot only batch without the coupon) instead of doing all the hardwork that the employees don't feel like doing but must do. Now they screwed up big time by further expose the method of gamespot selling employee-opened-games as new. Which they might not intended to do in the first place.

Philly1UPer
Philly1UPer

Also, Gamestop lets Employees take home new games for about 4-5 days as a "rental" so they can play it....before bringing it back to gamestop, repackaging and reselling it as new. Gamestop has been doing this for a minute now, they just never had anything to take out of the game before. STill. I wonder why they did this because they see Onlive as a "threat" when the same could be said about Steam and how Valve released Portal 2 with a coupon for a free copy that could be downloaded from Stream for free....I hate Gamestop so much to begin with anyway. They treat their employees like crap, they pretty steal all of the working hours, hell, the Gamestop near me has One Manager and TWO Assistant Managers working, and I never see any of the regular GA's there at all except for one day of the week.

fatbody75
fatbody75

Well written article. Couldn't agree more.

capncarl
capncarl

Gamestop is getting too big for its britches these days...

AMCope
AMCope

Pretty pathetic Gamestop. Makes me want to think twice about buying anything from them ever again.

Mattius04
Mattius04

Beware of Gamestop. This happened not long ago. I went in to purchase a new xbox 360 game for 59.99. I paid for it then the customer rep gave me the game with no shrink wrap on the package. I opened the case and inspected the disc and there were some minor scratches on it then asked him if it was used. He said "No, it is a new game, we just took it out of the package and tested it for our display console here in the store so people could try it out, its never been purchased by a customer before." Then I told him that it was a used copy and I wanted a new one with the shrink wrap to verify that it was new. He said the transaction was already complete and I should have any problems with it. When you buy anything from there make sure it has never been tampered with.

Philly1UPer
Philly1UPer

I would also like to point out, I see Gamestop selling redeemable codes or "points" for Onlive when that fully starts to swing and pick up. Hopefully Onlive tells them to kiss off.

TriumphantToad
TriumphantToad

I agree with the headline, too. I have lost respect for GameStop, have been intrigued by Onlive, a service I never considered to be legitimate before now, and have gained sympathy for Onlive.

TriumphantToad
TriumphantToad

And whether or not GameStop was "within their rights" to remove the coupons, it's still cheating the customer. Did they ask me whether or not I wanted the coupon before they trashed it? No, they didn't.

TriumphantToad
TriumphantToad

GameStop can die for all I care. I hope they do, after pulling crap like this.

Philly1UPer
Philly1UPer

@ThePowerOfHAT I was just getting ready to type something like this out. Today it starts with Deus Ex, who knows, tomorrow, all new copies of Portal 2 will be opened and repacked without the digital copy. Free DLC will probably get taken out and resold. ITs not happening yet, but Gamestop already has their hands on the flood gate. I'm personally never buying a game from them again. They tampered with a new product, repackaged it and sold it as new. If I'm giving them 60 dollars for a game, it better have EVERYTHING in it.

ThePowerOfHAT
ThePowerOfHAT

I feel like this sort of thing could cause lots of publishers to lose their trust in GameStop as a seller. If a retailer feels that it's up to them to decide what should and shouldn't be in a publisher's product, then the publisher has little to no control over what ultimately reaches gamers through said retailer. This sets a somewhat disturbing precedent. If GameStop sees fit to remove the OnLive coupons from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, what's to stop them from removing access to Steam copies for a Valve game since they're a potential online service competitor? Why wouldn't they take out online passes for Battlefield 3 and try to convince customers to purchase those (again) directly from their stores? Could codes for DLC included with every package of a game be taken out by GameStop because they want you to purchase your MSPoints directly from them? None of these possibilities sound farfetched to me, considering what's already come to pass.

Philly1UPer
Philly1UPer

There is an easier way to screw with Gamestop, everyone go in and look at a copy of Deus Ex, and then ask if they packaging has been opened, once the sales rep says yes, drag the manager out and demand that they sell you the game as used, since the package was opened and contents were removed, but you need to make it very public and very loud because you need to get everyone in the store to cause the same ruckus. In all seriousness. It may be there store and they can practice whatever they want but....When I worked at Gamestop it was a big "No -No" to even open new game packages.....

MrDoomLWest
MrDoomLWest

I guess Gamestop may have some reason to be mad, they have the right not to sell the game, however, Square Enix has the right to pack inside the game whatever they want. Square Enix, should have made the content public, not only to Gamestop but to the other retailers as well. But the true is that Gamestop treated their customers the same way by not telling them that they have open the boxes and removed the free copy for Onlive. They acted behind the customers back, selling them an open box. The same way that they claim the need to be inform about this code from Onlive, the costumer needed it to be inform that the case was open, then decided by themselves to buy or don't buy the product, every one knows that as soon as you open something it looses value, is like a collector toy, as long that is unopened there's a value. Guess Gamestop didn't want to loose the money from the sale of the game, and never expected this whole riot, if many people where unaware of Onlive, Gamestop has managed to put it on every ones mind. Besides, don't you have to activated the pc game on STEAM, a bigger competition to Gamestop, but they have a back bone full of fans, Onlive yet doesn't have it, until now.In the end Gamestop prove to be a business who like any other doesn't care much for their costumers, they care for the content on your wallet. Is Gamestop ever going to be trusted again, and would this kind of precedent would help them lunch their streaming service? I highly doubted.

MrDoomLWest
MrDoomLWest

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

redrabbit65
redrabbit65

squidracerX: Do other retailers open the box and remove content? Your argument is spurious because even if a retailer opens a box, inserts its own securty then re-wraps it they aren't taking the code that opens a digital copy of the dvd or a $10 rebate coupon. That's the issue here. If Gamestop offers a gay Robin outfit code for the next Batman game but the game ships with a straight Robin code does that conflict? Are they then within their right to pull the code out? Comparing Gamestop with Microsoft is only germain in that both companies are universally despised. Are you seriously suggesting that people are giving Microsoft a pass to bully Gamestop? Really? Microsft is probably the most reviled company on the face of the earth, there's plenty of hate to go around for everyone, they've all got it coming.

jeff_hatt
jeff_hatt

@ SquidracerX The anti-theft devices are not put on at the store. They are done as part of the packaging process at the manufacturer.