Why Sony giving away Astro’s Playroom on PS5 is a brilliant move

Astro’s Playroom is an upcoming PS5 game that will be pre-installed for free on every one of Sony’s new consoles. The Astro’s Playroom PS5 release might not have the same level of hype as Spider-Man: Miles Morales or the return of Demon’s Souls, but it marks an important return to an old practice from gaming and computer history.

Every modern gaming console has several free-to-play games available at launch, but Astro’s Playroom marks a departure from recent console releases: the game will be automatically installed on every single PS5 console. This is a brilliant move by Sony — and not just because players will be getting a free game at launch.

Why Astro’s Playroom is free on PS5

Astro's Playroom PS5 DualSense pulling

Astro’s Playroom is being bundled with the PS5 for one simple reason: to teach players how to use the DualSense controller. Many (if not most) PS5 gamers will have experience with earlier PlayStation consoles, but the DualSense is a “radical departure” from Sony’s gaming hardware to date. New DualSense features like a built-in speaker and adaptive triggers have game developers excited for the possibilities they offer, but these new gadgets won’t count for much if players don’t know how to use them.

In fact, Astro’s Playroom was instrumental to the design of the DualSense controller — a device that looks noticeably different from its predecessor. The developers worked hand-in-hand with Sony’s hardware team to make adjustments to the trigger sensitivity and to fine-tune other aspects of the PS5 controller. This feedback loop helped perfect the new controller design that Sony is banking on for the next generation.

The results of this partnership will be evident when players actually get their hands on the PS5. Many are sure to hop into their favorite title first, but newer PlayStation gamers will likely want to see what that adorable little robot is all about. That entertaining experience won’t just give them 4–5 hours of fun — it will teach them how to use the DualSense controller and therefore make it easier for players to jump into other games.

Sega and Microsoft paved the way for bundled games

Astro's Playroom PS5 DualSense skating

Using Astro’s Playroom to teach players how to use the DualSense is a wise move by Sony, but it’s far from the first company to do something like this. In fact, Sega arguably pioneered the practice with the Sega Master System all the way back in 1986.

As with many consoles of the era, the Sega Master System used cartridges to store its games. Unlike its contemporaries, however, it also included one of several games built into the console’s internal memory. When you bought a Sega Master System, you got a game for free — and that surely helped new players better understand the controls.

Years later, Microsoft did something similar when it switched to a Graphical User Interface (GUI) for its Windows operating system. The inclusion of Solitaire gave users who were used to typing out commands a way to understand how a mouse-driven user interface could work. If a player booted up Solitaire today, they would find that it requires the use of left-click, right-click, and clicking and dragging — all of which are essential skills for making the most out of a graphical user interface.

The Astro’s Playroom PS5 launch will show the benefits of bundled games

Astro's Playroom PS5 DualSense twirling

Sony isn’t the first console manufacturer to show up with some new tech for its next-generation hardware; every major console release iterates on the previous generation in some fashion. Sony, however, had the sense to include a free game that will rapidly help players catch up with new tech.

This isn’t just a good move on Sony’s part — it should also be a lesson for the rest of the industry. 1-2 Switch, for example, was one of the few launch titles for the Nintendo Switch and it would have done a fine job at teaching players how to use Joy-Cons. Unfortunately, Nintendo decided to sell it for $49.99 rather than include it for free with the console.

With major game companies having millions (or billions) of dollars in the bank, it’s time that they invest in creating interesting ways to teach players how to use their consoles. Sony is leading the way with the Astro’s Playroom PS5 release and it will surely demonstrate the benefits of bundling a tutorial game with a new game console.