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GameStop under fire for removing free coupons from Deus Ex: Human Revolution

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The battle over digital game distribution just took a turn for the ugly.

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Square Enix)

Video game retail giant GameStop has been opening up brand new PC game boxes of the critically-acclaimed shooter Deus Ex: Human Revolution and removing packed-in coupons granting free copies of the game to users of the OnLive cloud gaming service.

OnLive and Deus Ex publisher Square Enix announced the coupon deal yesterday, which would let buyers of a boxed PC copy download and play another copy of the game, for free, via OnLive's cloud based network, a $50 value.

But apparently GameStop, which has its own digital distribution platform, wasn't on board with what it believes is helping to promote the competition. A letter sent out to GameStop employees instructing them to "immediately remove and discard the OnLive coupon from all the regular PC versions of Deus Ex: Human Revolution" has been widely circulated, and GameStop has since officially confirmed the practice.

"Regarding the Deus Ex OnLive Codes: GameStop's policy is that we do not promote competitive services without a formal partnership," GameStop says on its Facebook page. "Square Enix packed a competitor's coupon within the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution without our prior knowledge and we did pull these coupons."

It's pretty upsetting news for those who like to believe that when they buy a new product, they are actually, you know, buying a new product.  Knowing a retailer tampered with a game box simply to thwart a promotion geared at saving gamers money is, to say the least, a little worrying.

GameStop, however, assures you that while they're breaking the seal on your new game box, your game itself should be fine.

"While the new products may be opened, we fully guarantee the condition of the discs to be new. If you find this to not be the case, please contact the store where the game was purchased and they will further assist," the company states.

So is it illegal? That's a bit fuzzy. Wired reports that Square Enix and OnLive might be able to make a case for "tortious interference," which occurs when one party intentionally damages another party's contractual or business relationships.

GameStop has raised the ire of gamers before. Just last year, the company was hit with  a class-action lawsuit over what consumers considered deceptive used game sales.

Square Enix and OnLive have yet to formally respond.

UPDATE: GameStop has now pulled all PC copies of the game from store shelves.

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