Anticipation is growing as Sony and Nintendo prepare for the North American releases of their latest gaming consoles. With Microsoft already set with the Xbox 360, and a strong offering from Nintendo, some experts believe that Sony will lose its tight grip on the worldwide gaming market.

Although Sony plans to launch its Playstation 3 console in North America on November 17, with Nintendo following shortly after, Microsoft already launched its next-generation console last November. The unchallenged twelve-month advantage has given the software maker a sizeable lead.

The winner in the next-generation console battle is likely to be the Xbox 360, which is the leader in North America, the world’s biggest market, said Yoshiyuki Kinoshita, research analyst for Merrill Lynch.

We forecast respective market shares at end-FY3/11 of Xbox 360 [at] 39 percent, PS3 [at] 34 percent and Wii [at] 27 percent, thus overturning Sony’s domination of the market with its PS2-based share of 69 percent, and doubling Microsoft and Nintendo’s respective market shares.

The firm further predicts that in Japan, Sony will take the lead with a 57 percent market share, while Nintendo will take the bulk of the rest at 39 percent of the market. Figures for Xbox were not supplied.

In North America, Microsoft will hold the lead with 50 percent of while Sony and Nintendo will follow with 27 and 23 percent, respectively.

In the next-gen console market, we see the end of any common global dominant platform, Kinoshita concludes.