(CNN) — 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.