Yesterday we mentioned that retail copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution are being sold with a bonus OnLive activation code. Today, Joystiq report that Gamestop HQ has sent a message out to employees telling them to move all stocks of the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution to store back rooms in preparation for shipment back to Square Enix.
This is an escalation from an earlier order , which asked employees to remove the OnLive coupons from copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution by hand. Now Gamestop are simply refusing to sell PC copies of the game. A Gamestop spokesperson told Ars Technica that "Square Enix packed the competitor's coupon with our DXHR product without our prior knowledge." It's a remarkable move from Gamestop, and the latest incident in an escalating conflict between digital distributors and traditional retail stores.
In response, Square Enix have released an apologetic official statement. "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 www.gamestop.com,“ the statement grovels.
Gamestop's refusal to sell copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution comes shortly after their acquisition of Spawn Labs, a streaming service not dissimilar to OnLive. Gamestop seem to be protecting their interests and trying to eliminate potential competitors in the most aggressive way possible. The outright refusal to sell a top rated game is the nuclear option in Gamestop's arsenal, and they're using to protect their online presence.
The battle for control of the PC market has already begun. In the UK, games like Brink and Space Marine are being removed from Steam amid rumours of a conflict with retailers, Game. Last year the head of an unnamed major retailer said this to MCV “If we have a digital service, then I don't want to start selling a rival in-store. Publishers are creating a monster – we are telling suppliers to stop using Steam in their games.”
Within the digital arena, EA have this year rebranded and relaunched their online store as Origin, and EA games have recently been disappearing from Steam amid DLC exclusivity conflicts and EA assertions that Steam has "restrictive terms of service."
The competition between rival digital distributors is hotting up, and retailers look to be placing increasing pressure on publishers to keep their games off rival digital services. Anyone who was planning to buy Battlefield 3 on Steam this year will tell you that buyers are already being affected by these escalating arguments. This issue looks set to become the defining issue in PC gaming in 2012. Stay tuned to PCGamer.com. We'll have more on this soon.