While this current system war seems to be nowhere near over, and there has certainly been no clear winner, people are already starting to wonder about when the next version of their favorite system will be released.  We try to help you predict when you may expect the next one, but of course there is no certainty on all of this.

We have listed historical data on the release dates for the systems in the USA and Japan as those are the two biggest markets.

Microsoft

USA Release Japan Release
Xbox Nov. 15, 2001 Feb. 22, 2002
Xbox 360 Nov. 22, 2005 Dec. 10, 2005

xbox_360We've just passed the fourth anniversary of the Xbox 360, and with the scheduled release of the Project Natal peripheral for next November, I think it's safe to say that the Xbox 3 is a ways off before we'll see it.

Shane Kim, corporate vice president for strategy and business development at Microsoft's game division, did an interview with VentureBeat in June of this year where he confirmed that Microsoft was in no rush to replace the 360. "We firmly believe that the Xbox 360 has a life cycle through 2015. Project Natal is a great innovation. It will work with every Xbox 360 sold. It's not about pushing more pixels on the screen. It's about how to break down barriers that stop people from playing games."

Of course this might change, but it looks to me like you can safely bet on no new Xbox until 2015.

Nintendo

USA Japan
Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom Oct. 18, 1985 July 15, 1983
Super Nintendo/Super Famicom Aug. 1991 Nov. 21, 1990
Nintendo 64 Sept. 29, 1996 June 23, 1996
GameCube Nov. 18, 2001 Sept. 14, 2001
Wii Nov. 19, 2006 Dec. 2, 2006

wiiUnlike its competitors, Nintendo doesn't have any major additions in the pipeline for the Wii that we know of.  That would seem to make it more likely that Nintendo will be th most willing of the three companies to want to get out a new system.  Sure the Wii Fit is selling well, but if they could make that work with the next system, there is no reason for the company to not press forward on its next iteration of its consoles.

As you can see from the list above, with the exception of the time between the first and second systems, Nintendo has kept to a five year life span on its systems.  In theory this means that a new system should be ready for release some time in the fall of 2011.

Sony

USA Japan
PlayStation Sept. 9, 1995 Dec. 3, 1994
PlayStation 2 October 26, 2000 March 4, 2000
PlayStation 3 Nov. 11, 2006 Nov. 17, 2006

ps3logoSony was expected to be the undisputed champion of this current generation of consoles, but due to an initial release price that could choke a horse, the PS3 actually ended up having to play catch up with the Xbox 360 and Wii.  There is no doubt that Sony has still done well with its latest system, but it hasn't exactly set the world on fire like the company expected.

The quickest way to correct this?  Prep the PS4 at a price that doesn't make consumers do a double take.

Looking at the previous release dates, Sony has taken around five to six years between releases, which means we could see the PS4 in Nov. 2011 or Nov. 2012.  Seeing that the company is currently preparing a motion controller wand, it seems unlikely the PS3 is going anywhere any time soon.  Sony may end up trying to match the 2015 release date mentioned by Microsoft just so the two can lock horns again, but only time will tell.

So, who'll blink first?

It really is looking impossible to predict when we might receive the next new gaming system.  Which ever one makes it on to store shelves first is going to have a long road to go because the other two can quickly retool their systems to beat whatever the first one has on its insides.  About the only prediction I am willing to make is that the name "Wii" is with us for a long time to come, the only unknown part is if will be named "Wii 2" or some other variation of the brand name.

The problem I see with this entire plan is going to be consumer perception.  People have gotten so accustomed to technology upgrading constantly that the longer the game systems are in the market place, the quicker they will be to say, "We're not buying that!  As soon as we do the next version will come out!"  There will also be the perception even by hard core gamers that the hardware is getting so dated that it is pointless to replace a system after it breaks down because surely the next version is coming.

In short, while none of us like having to shell out hundreds of dollars every few years for a new game system, I think the game manufacturers are going to discover that there is a point where you go too long, and if they all agree to this 2015 date … I think they've found it.