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After years of waiting, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are finally out in the wild and in the hands of consumers eager to tear into their shiny new tech purchases looking for that “next-gen” feeling to wash over them in waves as they boot up their first game.

Except that didn’t happen for everyone.

While there were plenty of games to go around for both systems, only one came with a “pack-in” game (software that comes packaged with the console) and that was the PlayStation 5.

Pack-in games have been an important part of new console launches for decades, dating back to the Magnavox Odyssey in the 1970s, arguably the first home video game console. Over 40 years ago, buyers were looking to recreate what they played in the arcade in the comfort of their living room, and, for many, a home version of Pong was the only reason they would ever even consider purchasing a console.The game, a pack-in with the Odyssey, helped drive sales of the console.


This practice has largely continued over the years, but seems to have tapered off a bit recently. Having a game to immediately jump into as soon as the system is out of the box gives buyers a sense of anticipation. It also makes giving a next-gen console as a gift a no-brainer — you’ve already got the game handy, so there aren’t any extra purchases required to start playing.

Just as Wii Sports introduced gamers to the Nintendo’s Wii motion controls as a pack-in launch title in 2006, the PS5 comes pre-loaded with the adorable Astro’s Playroom, a playful hybrid of DualSense controller tutorial and friendly platforming game.

Being a free game meant to act primarily as the welcome wagon for new PS5 owners, Astro’s Playroom could easily have lasted an hour or so and done little more than offer ways to try the DualSense’s adaptive triggers or haptic feedback. Instead, the game is a full-fledged adventure that not only feels fulfilling and exciting to play, but presents a heartwarming tribute to the PlayStation brand over the years.

Most importantly, Astro’s Playroom is available straight out of the box without the need to redeem a code or seek out the right version of the game, or needlessly expending any additional energy.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the Xbox Series X|S, despite its competency as a console. Players opened their systems up to, well, nothing, which made for less of a curated experience, especially if they hadn’t been able to purchase a game created specifically for Xbox Series X.

We’re likely years out from the launch of another new console from gaming’s “Big Three” (aside from what Nintendo may or may not have up its sleeve), but the act of including pack-in games is still of importance. Astro’s Playroom specifically makes a great case for continuing this practice, both as a way to show off what the PS5 is capable of and to make things simple for buyers. Pack-ins are a tradition that is still very much integral to a console’s launch, and as long as we’re going to have new systems on the way out, we too should have the games that come with them.


Photo courtesy of Sony Interactive Inc.