2001: Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo GameCube
As the new millennium dawned, Sony's PS2 found its preeminence contested by two worthy challengers: the Microsoft Xbox and the Nintendo GameCube.
After supplying the operating system for Sega's Dreamcast console, Microsoft ventured directly into the console race--with the PlayStation 2 squarely in its sights. Unlike the PS2, the $300 Xbox boasted a built-in 8GB hard disk and was broadband-ready out of the box (the Xbox Live Online gaming service launched a year later).
The powerful Xbox had a PC-like design and used a modified Pentium III processor (running at 733 MHz). One of its launch titles, Halo: Combat Evolved, ranked as the best-selling game of 2001.
The GameCube arrived in the United States just days after the Xbox; and at $200, it was $100 cheaper than either Microsoft's offering or the PlayStation 2. The GameCube was notably compact (it even had a handle) and featured a 128-bit "Gekko" CPU designed by IBM.
Though Nintendo had finally stopped using game cartridges, it again bucked the prevailing trend by choosing a unique 8-cm disc format that could store only half as much information as the DVDs that rival consoles used. For the same reason, the GameCube couldn't play DVD movies or music CDs either. Even so, it more than held its own in sales against the Xbox (though both lagged behind the PlayStation 2), and Nintendo subsequently released separate dial-up and broadband networking adapters.