- PlayStation 4 goes on sale Friday; Xbox One follows on November 22
- It's been more than seven years since Sony and Microsoft had new consoles
- The two will compete for the loyalty of "core" gamers
- Rival Nintendo's Wii U was released last year
The last time a new PlayStation or Xbox hit the market, Facebook had fewer than 12 million users, a tablet was a pill and nobody outside of Apple had heard of a gadget called the iPhone.
That was more than seven years ago. It's a vastly different technology landscape that will greet Sony and Microsoft in the coming days when the two old rivals go head to head again with splashy new consoles.
Sony's PlayStation 4 hits stores on Friday, with Microsoft's Xbox One coming a week later, on November 22.
Between them, they account for two of the gaming world's Big Three (Nintendo, which rolled out the Wii U last year, casts a wider net to draw children, families and more casual players). The venerable PlayStation and Xbox remain the fiercest rivals for the hearts and minds of so-called hardcore gamers -- the diehards who stand in line for intense, intricate titles like "Call of Duty" that pull in more cash than Hollywood blockbusters.
But it was 2005 when the Xbox 360 hit the market, and a year later when the PlayStation 3 debuted. Now, the two platforms will be competing for holiday dollars in a world where anyone can boot up a video game instantly on a phone or tablet, and in which streaming and cloud technology mean most major video-game titles can be played as easily on souped-up PCs.
Even the now-ubiquitous Facebook, which now has 1.1 billion users, plays a role. Tens of millions of people play games on the site daily (athough few of the faithful who will line up for the new consoles may consider crushing candy or farming virtual cows "real" gaming).
So which of the two rivals, if either, will cut through the clutter and prevail? It remains to be seen, though the fight has already begun.
Earlier this year, Microsoft reversed course on poorly received plans to require Xbox One users to be online while playing and to limit how much digital games could be shared or resold. But that wasn't before Sony got in some shots of its own.
Early reviews of the PS4 have been positive, with Time.com's Matt Peckham praising it as "everything Sony's learned about platform design, honed and polished to something just shy of perfection."
The Xbox One will get its chance to shine next week. And the debate over which platform is better will continue, long after the new consoles start landing in homes.
Until then, here's a "tale of the tape" look at some of the features of two devices.
PlayStation 4: November 15
Xbox One: November 22
PlayStation 4: $399
Xbox One: $499
Titles at launch
PlayStation 4: 16
Xbox One: 23
PlayStation 4: Deep Down; Driveclub; InFamous: Second Son; Killzone: Shadow Fall; Knack; Resogun; Shadow of the Beast; The Order: 1886.
Xbox One: Dead Rising 3; Forza Motorsport 5; Halo 5; Killer Instinct; Project Spark; Quantum Break; Ryse: Son of Rome; Sunset Overdrive; Titanfall.
Both: Netflix, Amazon Instant, Vudu, Hulu Plus, Redbox Instant
PlayStation 4: NBA Game Time, NHL Game Center Live, Sony Music Unlimited, Sony Video Unlimited
Xbox One: HBO Go, Watch ESPN, Fox Now, FX Now, TED, Univision Deportes, Xbox Music, Xbox Video
PlayStation 4: 8-core x86-64 AMD "Jaguar" CPU
Xbox One: 8-Core AMD custom CPU
PlayStation 4: 8 GB
Xbox One: 8 GB
PlayStation 4: 500 GB
Xbox One: 500 GB
PlayStation 4: None (Available for $59)
Xbox One: Kinect 2
Which console do you prefer, and which features are most important to you? Let us know in the comments.