GameStop's OnLive response 'probably legal'

By Andrew Yoon, Aug 24, 2011 7:00pm PDT

Earlier today, GameStop confirmed that it was opening new copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and removing free codes for an OnLive version of the game. The company told us that the "competitor's coupon" was placed into boxes without the company's knowledge--a retail trojan horse, if you will.

While the company's action has been seen as drastic, some are questioning if there can be any legal ramifications for removing content from a sealed product and selling it as new. Mark Methenitis, attorney and industry analyst, said that "it's probably legal" because "GameStop isn't removing any essential element of the product."

"The only issue would be if the box advertised the promo and GameStop did nothing to change that, there might be a deceptive trade practice or false advertising kind of claim. But from the consumer angle, there's not much," Methenitis told IndustryGamers. Considering the last-minute discovery of the promotion, it's clear that many--consumers and retailers alike--were kept in the dark. There was pretty much zero advertising of OnLive's addition to retail copies.

While consumers can't do much against GameStop (other than not purchase products from them), OnLive and Square Enix may be able to threaten legal action. Wired explains: "Tortious interference litigation results when one party accuses another of intentionally damaging their business contracts or relationships. By removing OnLive’s coupon from copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, GameStop might have violated United States economic tort law."

Unfortunately for all parties involved, heads are likely to clash again as OnLive CEO Steve Perlman told Joystiq that this promotion was just "the first of many." With a growing number of high-profile PC releases in the pipeline, it seems like GameStop will have many more boxes to open in the coming months.

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