As if it weren’t frustrating enough to choose among the PlayStation, Dreamcast, and Nintendo 64, Microsoft is set to enter the joystick race with a new game console called the X-Box. Bill Gates’ machine won’t be available until fall 2001, a year after Sony’s zippy PlayStation 2 comes out in the U.S., but he’s promising twice the memory, nearly five times the graphics power (300 million polygons per second to PlayStation 2’s 66 million), a DVD drive, an audiovisual expansion port, and a super-speedy Net connection. So who will finish first in this console race? ”All of them are going to need the same thing to win: fun games,” says Mike Wilson, cofounder of game studio Gathering of Developers. He’s right: Sony, Sega, and Nintendo make most of their profits by building successful game franchises like Pokémon, and the X-Box’s gaping hole is its lack of titles (PlayStation 2, meanwhile, will play not only all the old-format games but around a dozen new ones at launch). Microsoft does have the support of a who’s who of videogame developers — everyone from Universal Studios to Eidos (of Tomb Raider fame) — but most companies follow the lead of the platform’s creator before committing themselves, which means that Microsoft will have to invent its own PaRappa the Rapper, Sonic the Hedgehog, or Super Mario for the X-Box. But since the company has shown it can compete in, if not dominate, every other computerized arena it enters, it’s entirely possible that we’ll all be crazy for Gatesmon by 2002.