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For the three major games console manufacturers, November and December are the most crucial months of the year. The killer combination of Christmas and a deluge of quality games drive a lot of us to drag out our wallets and lay down the cash, and the decisions we make now will have a huge impact on the industry in the year to come. This year the stakes are higher than ever: with all three of what we used to call the ‘next generation' consoles now established in the UK, Sony and Microsoft will be looking anxiously to see whether their sales are picking up or beginning to plateau, while Nintendo will be hoping it can hold or build its astonishing momentum with the DS and the Wii.

Of course, we don't care whether some corporate VP wakes up smiling or weeping on Christmas day. We just suspect that with new games and new deals coming online, many of Trusted Reviews' readers will be looking to buy new console hardware. That's why we felt now was a good time for an update. Which formats are thriving? What problems do they face? What should you buy, and why? We'll cover each platform in turn, and - as the software is so important - take a look at the games that might help you make up your mind. We're concentrating on the exclusives that prove so crucial to selling systems, so bear in mind that there are a lot of other games coming this Christmas and next year that will make each format even more attractive.

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