Do you remember when new video game consoles came with a hot new game packed inside? Buying the Super NES snagged you a copy of Super Mario World. Picking up a Sega Genesis meant finding Altered Beast (or, later, Sonic the Hedgehog) in the box with it. Tetris came with every Game Boy. It was truly a glorious era. So what happened? Why don't new consoles include new major games anymore? Defunct Games lays the blame on the Sega CD's attempt to dazzle would-be owners with an array of software that may have looked good as bullet points on the side of the box, but in reality were less than impressive. Did the Sega CD kill the pack-in game?
I know what you're thinking: How could this have happened? Some will point to the rising cost of making both hardware and software. Others will tell you stories about how the economy isn't like it used to be. A few will sit you down and force you to play Altered Beast until you stop asking. But these people are all wrong. The real reason nobody offers pack-in games is because of the Sega CD.
In total, Sega packaged a whopping six discs in the Sega CD box. For three hundred dollars, gamers picked up five Genesis ports, a TurboGrafx-CD game, a CD sampler, a collection of CD+G songs and the introduction of Virtual VCR. With the possible exception of Nintendo's Ambassador Program, this is the most amount of "free" software ever given away with a brand new game console.
In fact, it's too big of a haul. By packing so much crummy content into one box, Sega effectively killed the importance of the pack-in game. This act of desperation was felt throughout the industry, leading to the PlayStation, Xbox, Dreamcast and GameCube all launching without a pack-in game.
I don't know if I buy the premise entirely, but the article does make a good case for the general patheticness of Sega CD's pack-in titles. Personally, I think that it's not the crater left by Sega's pack-in glut that ended the practice of pack-in titles, but the rise of the original Sony PlayStation. Sony blasted into the video game console market with an edgy attitude and a brash marketing ego that raised the stakes for everyone. As competition heated up across all three of the console manufacturers of the era and profit margins became thinner, the need to give away the best game in the launch library withered away. Pack-ins on the whole didn't stay dead forever, of course. It's not uncommon to find the biggest game of a given season included with a PlayStation 3 or a Nintendo 3DS at key times of the year. When new hardware hits stores, however, we're on our own.