The console wars are heating up and by this time next year, video game enthusiasts will have to choose between three next-generation machines.
At this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (search) — a gaming mecca known to fans as E3 — Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo tried to dazzle investors and players alike with descriptions of machines that will not only play the latest games but will become complete entertainment centers.
While the companies are counting on demand for newer technology and more complex games, some consumers were apprehensive about shelling out big bucks for another game system.
Nathan Weiser, a 30-year-old gamer browsing a GameStop in Manhattan, isn't sure where his gaming future lies. "I've played PlayStation 2 lately, but I'm not devoted. I mean, I'd like a new Xbox — I've played my friends — but I can't buy both," Weiser said.
For more than a decade, Sony and Nintendo have fought to win over gamers, whereas Microsoft was a latecomer to the industry with the 2001 introduction of the Xbox. The Microsoft product won over fans like Solomon Gardner.
"I originally owned a PlayStation, but I didn't run out to buy the PlayStation 2, I waited to see which system was the best, and that was clearly the Xbox," Gardner said.
Microsoft (search) was the first to unveil its new system at E3, introducing the Xbox 360 (search) in a special segment on MTV before the expo began. Bill Gates, the Microsoft chairman, will have a jump-start on the competition, as his company's console will be the first to hit the market, coming out for the 2005 holiday season.
But having the first launch might not guarantee market dominance. "You just have to wait it out. I like to wait for the second generation of games to come out; that's when you start to see which system is the best. And it's cheaper to wait," says Albert Romero, a 28-year-old PlayStation 2 fan.
The Xbox 360 promises technology 10 times faster than the current Xbox, expanded online game play and compatibility with original Xbox games. The console will also support high-definition televisions. The goal for Microsoft is to gain an early foothold in the market and do something its executives have only dreamed of — overtaking the dominant Sony in market share.
Derrick Rahn, a 26-year-old Xbox fan, says he's looking forward to the new system. "I don't play games a whole lot. I only need one system ... it's all I need."
Sony (search), unwilling to let Microsoft get all the hype, unveiled its own PlayStation 3 (search). The system features a new processor that is 35 times more powerful than the one featured in the PlayStation 2. It also has backwards compatibility for both PlayStation 1 and 2 games, which was one of the key selling points for the PS2.
Keeping an eye on Microsoft's selling points, the PlayStation 3 will also support not one, but two high-definition screens. Another important feature for gamers is support for seven wireless controllers. The PlayStation 3 will be released in 2006, several months after the Xbox 360 hits the market.
But Sony's representatives appeared unconcerned about the later release date, saying they wouldn't rush the system out the door. Weiser said he was still leaning towards the PlayStation 3 for his next console purchase. "Why buy a new type of system when I could buy that and still play this?" he asks, holding up "Final Fantasy XII," a PlayStation 2 game.
Without going into specifics about its technical improvements, Nintendo officials said the system featured a new type of processor code-named Broadway. As the Nintendo GameCube (search) has the lowest market share of the current three consoles, it tried to push its continued dominance in the handheld market and its trademark games.
The Revolution will offer compatibility with the GameCube and also will allow access to a downloadable library of all Nintendo games in the company's 20-year history. Nintendo did not indicate when the Revolution will be finished, but said that the specifics will be announced before the end of the year.
Timothy Aumann, an 18-year-old game connoisseur, owns all the current systems and says he can't wait for the new Nintendo, thinking that it will once again become the top system.
"I've been watching the Revolution mostly, and it looks good, really good. The PlayStation 3 won't go down without a fight, but I'm going for the Revolution," he said while browsing the GameCube section of a Manhattan Toys "R" Us.
While it is impossible to predict which console will take the lead now, gamers said that will be decided by prices (none of which were announced) and the games.
At the expo, Nintendo emphasized its legendary game titles such as "Mario" (search) and "The Legend of Zelda" (search). Microsoft boasted that the Xbox 360 will get an improved version of "Final Fantasy XI (search)" while Sony offered demonstrations of "Devil May Cry 4," "Final Fantasy XII," and "Killzone."
FOX News' Alex Wallace contributed to this report.