Jan. 18, 2013 at 3:01 PM ET
Let's set aside for a moment the fact that neither Microsoft nor Sony have officially said that they are working on new home game machines. For a moment, let's just accept the fact that, as everyone who is anyone in the game industry knows: Microsoft and Sony ARE working new game machines.
As many, many sources have confirmed, Microsoft's yet-to-be-revealed new machine is code-named Durango while Sony's new machine is code-named Orbis. But while these two game consoles remain unannounced that has not stopped industry insiders from leaking specs and sizing up what is sure to be a big ol' Microsoft vs. Sony showdown.
In fact, this post-Consumer Electronics Show week has been awash in new Xbox and PlayStation rumors and information — much of which seems very reliable. Perhaps the most interesting new details come from gaming site VG247 which has spoken to "developer sources" who say that Orbis (aka the PlayStation 4) will be more powerful than Durango (aka the Xbox 720).
The site says it spoke to sources at CES who told them that Sony's machine will have 50 percent more raw computational power than Microsoft's machine, as measured in teraflops — a measure of computing power. (Orbis will boast 1.84 teraflops to Durango's 1.23.) But on the flip side, VG247's sources say that Microsoft's machine will have significantly more memory — 8GB of RAM — while Sony's machine has 4GB.
Meanwhile, Digital Foundry, quoting "trusted sources," has just published an extensive report on Orbis' guts, confirming 1.84 teraflops and 4GB of RAM for the forthcoming Sony machine.
Additional console details include: VG247 reports that both machines will read Blu-ray discs. And Digital Foundry reports that both will feature eight-core CPUs. Meanwhile, game site CVG is reporting that its sources say Microsoft will replace the Xbox Live voice chat with Skype for its next console and that Sony is working on a new controller that may include a touch-screen and biometric sensors.
The Xbox and PlayStation have always gone head-to-head in the power and features department, each attempting to woo serious gamers to its fold, and it looks like new machines only mean more muscle flexing. But it's important to remember that Nintendo didn't rely on a lot of muscle to sell a whole lot of Wiis during the last console generation. That is, it will take a lot more than winning teraflop and gigabyte numbers to triumph in the end.
And ultimately, what gamers want to know is: When will these machines arrive and how much will they cost?
Speaking of which, in other post-CES news, tech analysts are telling their investors that they expect the two new consoles to cost U.S. gamers between $350 and $400 (compared to the $300/$350 price tag on Nintendo's new Wii U machine). As GamesIndustry.Biz reports, Baird Equity Research has sent a note to its investors explaining that it arrived at the above retail price after speaking "with a number of companies involved in video game development and distribution" at CES.
In that note, Baird senior research analyst Colin Sebastian said he expects Microsoft and Sony to reveal their new machines prior to the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June. Meanwhile, he expects Sony to launch its new machine in October and Microsoft to launch its in November.
With new consoles from Microsoft and Sony on the way — not to mention Valve's forthcoming Steam Box somewhere on the horizon — the gaming business is going to get very, very interesting very soon. The question is: Which machine will you make room for in your home and in your budget?
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.