Selling consoles with 1 controller and no game is one of the most annoying things thats happened in console gaming in the last 10+ years.
I recall being able to buy the Neo-Geo w/out a game. That's the earliest I recall seeing a system sold with no game.
Checked my Jag box, no cart included, one controller.
Checked my 3DO box (Panny FZ-1 version), no game, one controller.
The Jag is from '92/'93, the 3DO from '93. But I recall the Neo-Geo with no game & one controller around 1991, maybe 1992.
At least I'm pretty sure that's about when it started. I sold my Neo-Geo around '92, and they were already selling them with no game and one controller then.
I wish I still had my Neo-Geo. But I sold it when new games were costing $250+ a piece!
Yeah, they weren't cheap when I bought it ($125-$150+), but in less than a year after I bought it they'd climbed up to the $250+ mark...