Will South Park Be A Barometer In The Console Wars?
November 17, 2013

Will South Park Be A Barometer In The Console Wars?

The recent South Park episode titled, “Black Friday,” saw the youth of the Colorado town divided over which video game console they support. Various cliques have chosen sides: the Star Trek kids (those who dress up and play Star Trek that is) were solidly in the Microsoft Xbox One camp; while the Goth Kids said they preferred the Sony PlayStation 4, as it was the “blacker” of the two systems.

The battle lines were clearly drawn, more so because the kids (lead by loveable sociopath Eric Cartman) plotted a plan where the kids were playing HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones in an attempt to get into the South Park mall with the first thirty customers to get 80 percent off the retail price of anything in the store.

While no actual retailer is really going to offer such deep discounts, the fact that kids were forming factions between the two consoles actually speaks volumes of how this might play out. It would be easy to suggest this is just about video games, but really it is about much more.

Each company has shipped more than 60 million units worldwide, so there is a serious install base that these companies have already achieved. It might be a tall order to reach that point again, and it won’t likely be any time soon.

This is also the first time that Sony and Microsoft have gone head-to-head in the same holiday. The last time Microsoft introduced a console was in 2005 when its Xbox 360 arrived on the scene, followed a year later by the introduction of Sony’s PlayStation 3.

Both companies have released systems to compete with Nintendo; Microsoft did so in 2001 and Sony did in 2006. Nintendo looked for the early jump last year with its Wii U – and even by the holidays it wasn’t impossible to find units on the shelves.

This year will likely be different and both the PS4 and Xbox One will likely be in short supply on Black Friday. Maybe the best advice offered by the show was from the Goth Kids who said that they’d likely wait for more systems to show up and prices to fall.

Given that some of the best games are still coming out for the Xbox 360 and PS3 (just look to the recent Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty: Ghosts as examples) it is going to be at least until next holiday season before the new consoles offer anything that really can’t be missed.

Sure there are some great launch titles on both systems, but Sony and Microsoft have painted themselves into a corner. How do you turn your back on those 60 million happy customers? The answer is that you really can’t, and these companies likely won’t for a few years.

As hardware companies, Sony and Microsoft actually lose money selling the hardware; yes, they lose money selling the hardware. That’s because even though they didn’t develop Grand Theft Auto they made money from every title sold for their respective system.

In other words, Sony and Microsoft would love to see GTA VI on their systems, but only to a point. They need to see the Goth Kids, the Star Trek kids, the Game of Thrones kids and everyone else to buy a new system, but until they do we’re going to see more life out of those systems.

The final piece of this may be that South Park is a pretty good indicator of what is hot. Eric Cartman, for one, likes the Xbox One, but we know he also had an Xbox 360 as well as a PlayStation Portable. He was also the kid pacing outside the game store waiting for the Nintendo Wii back in 2006, and that was when not everyone expected it to be a hit – certainly not as big of a hit that it was.

So, if the fat little sociopath is betting on the Xbox One, that should be seen as true portent for Microsoft’s success!

Image Credit: South Park Studios

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

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