playstation 4

playstation 4 Credit: Getty

Imagine the big brains at Sony's and Microsoft's gaming headquarters. Right now, they're about as ready to rock as any hard-core gamer suiting up an avatar for Assassin's Creed or fielding a football team for Madden NFL 25.

But they aren't playing a game. At 12:01 a.m. Friday, Sony's launch of PlayStation 4 will mark the first salvo in this year's real-world Console Wars, a battle for billions of dollars in sales and a prime position in your living room or den. Next week, Microsoft follows with the Xbox One.

Since these are the first new gaming systems from either company in seven years, the Microsoft-Sony contest is likely to play out on many a wish list this holiday season and grab the most headlines. Despite steady advances in tablets, Internet TV, and laptops, nothing else really counts as a blockbuster.

But these systems may just qualify -- they're entertainment centers and cutting-edge computers as much as they are gaming systems. Each, for instance, boasts an eight-core processor, eight gigs of RAM, and a 500-gigabyte hard drive. Both include a Blu-ray drive to display movies and games in high-definition video -- in fact, both work only with an HD TV.

"PlayStation 4 is really the ultimate gaming console -- a truly immersive system," said Best Buy spokesman Jeremy Baier. The Xbox is "an entertainment hub. They can download music, check out the latest apps, and even Skype with family."

To allocate a limited quantity of PlayStation 4s, and maybe to stir a little extra buzz, Best Buy planned to open more than a third of its stores shortly before midnight Thursday, and aims to do the same next week for the new Xbox.

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