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What to expect from Microsoft's next Xbox One

A gamer plays "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare" on an Xbox One console during the Xbox Play Day 2014, before the Gamescom 2014 fair in Cologne August 12, 2014.

REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The Xbox One is one of the dominant video game consoles currently on the market today. Tech Times estimated earlier this year that Microsoft has sold nearly 20 million units of the system since it first hit store shelves in November 2013. So, what's next? Rumors have been swirling that Microsoft might release as many as four different Xbox devices to keep pace not only with competitors like Sony, but also to tap into burgeoning technologies like virtual reality.

The race to be the dominant video game console focuses on two main competitors: Sony and Microsoft. Word is out that Sony might debut the rumored PlayStation Neo at the upcoming E3 2016 -- the Electronic Entertainment Expo, beginning June 12 in Los Angeles, CNET reports.

While excitement will surely build for PlayStation, too, Microsoft is looking to different-sized Xboxes to answer different consumer demands. Sources told gaming site Kotaku that there will be at least two Xbox consoles over the course of the next two years. A smaller -- and cheaper -- version of the Xbox One could be out later this year.

After that, the site reports that 2017 could be the year of "Scorpio," the code name for a new and more powerful Xbox system.

The smaller version of the Xbox might not seem like that exciting of an announcement, but think of it as similar to Apple releasing the 4-inch iPhone SE, which doesn't reinvent the wheel, but does answer a clear user demand. Bigger isn't always better. It also could be something of a teaser before the big reveal of the next generation of entirely new technology.

Spoiler alert -- virtual reality might well be Microsoft's big reveal. While Microsoft has said that it does not plan on creating its own virtual reality headset anytime soon, it has made it clear it wants to dominate the VR space. One way to achieve that could be through "Scorpio" -- which is said to include a graphics chip that gives the gaming system four times the horsepower of its predecessor, CNET reports.

Basically, this means that the console would be strong enough to support virtual reality gaming, which CNET says is reportedly what Oculus Rift is gearing up for.

Though Microsoft has not confirmed any of these plans, the industry rumor mill continues to churn. In May, a developer told Ars Technica their company is developing a virtual reality game for Xbox, which just adds more fuel to the fire that Microsoft is planning a VR-friendly console.

Beyond VR and different-sized Xboxes, Microsoft might also announce two streaming devices at E3 that would help the Xbox One compete with the likes of Apple TV and Google Chromecast. CNET reports that tech watchers are buzzing that the company might unveil a set-top box that would go head-to-head with Apple's streaming TV service, while there could be a separate HDMI stick that would offer something similar to what Google does with Chromecast.

Essentially, these devices would make it possible for Microsoft games and tech to be accessed across platforms seamlessly.

Gamers will have to wait to see what Microsoft eventually reveals, but it seems clear that virtual reality and streaming video will be some of the ways Xbox aims to position itself as an even stronger competitor in a market that is becoming more about multi-device entertainment experiences.

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    Brian Mastroianni covers science and technology for CBSNews.com