Home entertainment has always been a ruthless business, but games consoles’ 50-year territorial war for the living room has been endlessly brutal. On screen, it is fought with chainsaws, battleaxes, plasma rifles or the Poltergust 3000 spectral vacuum cleaner. Behind the scenes, though, is an even bloodier conflict fought with long-term bets on technology, balance sheets, exclusivity agreements and games so intricate that they require 1,000-strong armies of staff to produce. The casualties are frequent. Who remembers the Casio PV-1000, the Timlex Mega Duck and the Bandai Playdia? Each may have briefly imagined themselves as rivals to the Nintendo Entertainment System or Sony PlayStation, but some barely made it out of the stores. Fizzled offerings from Apple, Panasonic and Sharp prove that even titans of consumer electronics have stumbled when it comes to games. But whereas the fight used to be between competing machines, analysts say the looming battle is about whether the pace of ...

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