[Community blogger megaStryke likes to play old games that ripped off other games for his Off Brand Games feature. -- CTZ]
It wasn't that long ago when just about every item on store shelves came packed with some cheap promotional crapware. Every box of cereal, every magazine, every pack of Maxi pads had a CD or DVD stuffed in a flimsy plastic sleeve or an offer to obtain one in exchange for an obscene amount of UPC labels. On those discs were cheap-o edutainment shareware, PlayStation demos, or a couple of episodes of some underperforming children's show. And let's not forget all those bullshit AOL trial CDs which were only ever useful as wheels for my mousetrap car in my 9th grade engineering class.
Rarely would any of these wastes of pressed plastic entertain a child for more than five minutes. What can you offer for the rock-bottom price of free without severely cutting into any profit you'd hope to see from selling an extra box or two of Cheerios? The only things that grab kids' attention anyway are big licenses like SpongeBob SquarePants or soulless, effects-driven cinema pap, and those never come cheap.
There must have been some allure to this marketing madness. Whoever pioneered it must have scored so big that other companies couldn't wait to jump on the fadwagon.
In 1996, General Mills wanted to make sure children the world over couldn't start the day without a truckload of Chex cereal funneled down their throats. They needed some way to convince kids that Chex was rad and that it totally did not taste like cardboard. Kids love them some videogames, especially that there DOOM business. How can we combine the wholesome morals of DOOM with the nutritional value of Chex?