As you may or may not have heard earlier, GameStop Corp. is in some pretty hot water right now. Following complaints that customers did not receive the coupon SquareEnix had advertised with for a free OnLive copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution (said to be packed in with the retail PC version of the game), and a series of leaked documents, GameStop has revealed two potentially shocking pieces of information: firstly, GameStop willfully tampered with sealed copies of the game, and removed said coupons, and secondly, this may not be the first time they’ve engaged in such behavior. Their reasoning for this shady, unethical, and borderline anti-competitive activity? SquareEnix didn’t inform GameStop of said coupons ahead of time, thus becoming an “unauthorized” promotion.
But Chris, you say, since when does a publisher need a retailer’s permission as to what content they can include in *their* game packaging? GameStop has their own digital distribution service, Impulse, thus providing a coupon for a third party service is promoting the competition. What GameStop apparently is too naive to realize, however, is the fact that even in removing the OnLive coupons, they are not stopping the usage of a third party service. Is GameStop not aware that Deus Ex: Human Revolution requires steam activation? Why single out one digital distribution platform (OnLive) while leaving the other unscathed?
I don’t care what the so-called justification is. As far as I’m concerned, removing anything from a sealed product - regardless of intention or company policy - is stealing, and downright ludicrous. Think about it - would Target remove a Papa John’s coupon from a DVD because they happen to have an in-store Pizza Hut Express? Absolutely not. Furthermore, note that despite taking property that is rightfully the consumer’s, GameStop is still marketing the stripped (opened) copies as new, and accordingly, charging customers the full $50 for said game. But wait, there’s more! Not only did GameStop remove the OnLive coupons, they are not offering any kind of remedy for doing so, outside of a return. No comparable offer to redeem a digital copy of the game on Impulse, no discount on related titles, not even so much as an apology.
I don’t know about you, but I for one will be thinking twice the next time I buy a game at my local GameStop. How many more times will they, or have they, remove(d) a promotion that they arbitrarily deemed outside of their best interest? How can we trust a company that has admitted to removing “unauthorized” promotions?
As many of you are aware, for the past few months, 42 Entertainment has been conducting an ARG, entitled The Human Preservation Project. Consisting of a series of websites, videos, cryptic newspaper advertising, and a supposed personality assessment, many believed it to be marketing for a video game, or an upcoming movie. I can now report that neither of those assumptions are true. Having received another mysterious looking package in the mail from the game today, I now know who is sponsoring this multimedia mystery…
That’s right - all of this; the scavenger hunt, the mysterious black envelopes, the Bonnaroo stunt, everything(!) is a brilliantly executed marketing campaign for a new flavor of Wrigley’s 5 Gum. I can’t say I’m exactly surprised, given the amount of sensory references in the various websites - but I’m impressed at how deep Wrigley’s went with this ARG before the inevitable big reveal. Spanning no less than 4 websites, and featuring lost’s Terry O’Quinn, The Human Preservation Project was undoubtedly NOT cheap.
Now that the veil has been lifted, the question remains: does it end here? Is today’s mailing the end of a four month marketing campaign, or is this simply the next phase in an ongoing ARG?
UPDATE: To answer my own question, today’s mailing isn’t the end, not by a long shot. Opening the included specially marked package of gum revealed the following - with a single use code that I’ve since removed, for the Survival Code website.
Looks like it’s just getting started!