Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft Working On New Consoles

Developers are only just beginning to figure out what they can do with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. And you still can’t even find a Wii on store shelves.

But the battle to lead the next generation is a never-ending one in the gaming industry. And while none of the major console manufacturers wants to talk specifics, developers in the know say Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are already hard at work putting together their next systems.

Game machines typically are on the shelves for five or six years before a console manufacturer rolls out the next one. With the expense and success of this crop of systems–which have been out two to three years–it could be closer to eight years before we see the PlayStation 4, Xbox 720 and Nintendo “Us”–or whatever they end up being called.

“One of the things I like about this generation is we are still very early and there’s still a lot of room for growth … as we move down those price curves,” says Brian Farrell, CEO of THQ . “Those engines have a lot of steam left in them. We think it could be seven or eight years before new machines start to roll out.”

Epic Games, maker of the hit “Gears of War” series, agrees. President Mike Capps recently said the company estimates new systems will not hit shelves until somewhere between 2012 and 2018.

Both hardware and software manufacturers are already gearing up. Work on Epic’s “Unreal Engine 4,” a graphics engine for next-gen games, has been under way for almost two years now under the guidance of founder Tim Sweeney. “It’s not like there’s anything to show today,” notes Epic Vice President Mark Rein.

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