Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, August 25, 2011

GameStop Wants OnLive To Play Dead

The smoking gun memo.

The followup memo.
This has to be one of the more unusual stories I've seen lately. Square Enix recently shipped Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and had worked out a promotional deal with streaming game service OnLive. Onlive gave them vouchers, which Square Enix put into every boxed copy they produced; the vouchers give you free access via OnLive to the streaming version of DEHR. I'm not exactly sure why Square Enix thought this was a great idea; why would you want to stream the game if you already owned the full version? I suppose because the streamed version might be higher quality than your PC could produce, since OnLive uses the gnarliest computers they can build to generate the streaming games, and unless you're a real gaming fanatic your PC probably can't match the graphics they can pump out.

Anyway, this all seemed like a typical cross-promotional marketing move. It was, until the boxes arrived at GameStop... then the memo went out to all GameStop employees: Open those boxes and pull out the vouchers and throw them away, then tape up the boxes and sell them as new. Later, word went out to just pull at the copies of the game and send them back to Square Enix. Square Enix acknowledged that they had failed to mention this voucher to GameStop, and bascially accepted the right of GameStop to refuse to sell the game with voucher.

As you might expect, once news of this hit the net, customers were not happy that GameStop was taking away something of value they thought they were getting. Now, GameStop's official position is that they don't want to support a competitor. I tried to check out GameStop's Facebook page where they had posted their official response, but it was not available. Probably swamped with angry comments.

OK, I understand that GameStop has purchased Spawn Labs with the intent of providing streaming game services at some point. GameStop also owns Impulse, a digital game distribution service. Would GameStop then pull Steam coupons from games? Where does this whole process stop?

GameStop's response was pretty hamhanded, and is going to generate a wave of bad publicity for them. Are they really that scared of OnLive? Seems like they are doing OnLive a favor by causing this publicity. If GameStop hadn't said anything and just ignored the voucher, it would have been gone and forgotten in a few weeks. They're going to have to compete against OnLive, but they're not ready with their competing service yet, so doing this doesn't get them any customers right now. If anything, it may lose a few. Or provide some nice PR value for OnLive.

Sometimes the best response is just to ignore something and continue with your own efforts.

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