It started subtly with the "you're outta the frat if you don't play" Halo; Microsoft, a U.S. company, gained ground inch-by-inch on the Japanese giants Sony and Nintendo. But the XBox was just the seed: the XBox 360 may have stolen the hearts of American gamers.
Sony stumbled with its limited PS3 shipments at launch and less-than-stunning online functionality, while Nintendo struck back after a weak showing by the Gamecube (Nintendo, however, is happily fated, in my mind, to be the solid minority contender that it has become). Where the 360 has really turned the tables on PS3, though, is in games. Sony has lost some big exclusives, as games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Assassin's Creed went cross-platform, while a look at the 360's exclusive lineup of late shows Gears of War dominating sales charts and a list of exciting upcoming exclusives like Mass Effect, Fable 2, and the unconquerable Halo 3. The 360 is the top dog, and remains pretty comfortably so, but will it stay that way?
It's looking more and more possible. While some analysts have predicted that PS3 will retake the throne by 2010, that remains to be seen. The 360 has secured an image as the American console, with a lineup of the sort of games that appeal first and foremost to Western gamers. PS3, on the other hand, still does and will continue to hold the Japanese market more strongly than the 360, thanks to its devoted audience and resulting loyal Japanese developers. In a generation of consoles that will see a more even balance between competitors than we've experienced in a while, Sony's continued strength may rely heavily on Asian gamers. That's not to say that a cultural divide is the only difference between the two consoles, but as success comes to rely more and more on a console's exclusive titles, the 360's relatively Western-heavy developer base might further establish it as the friendly, neighborhood console for U.S. gamers in particular.