When Microsoft first announced that users would only be able to pick up one version of the Xbox One, some users, predictably, had a cow. How could Microsoft count on even casual users to pick up an Xbox One at $499? Where was the Xbox for the rest of us? Where was the rumored, cheaper console version that “credible” news outlets promised?

Well, as far as credible news outlets promising readers anything is going to happen, I can’t help you there. In the end, it seems Microsoft opted to sell one version of the console and keep the hardware installation footprint the same. Rather than break up Xbox One user footprints into smaller chunks of users who have a Kinect or don’t, or have faster processors and don’t, they opted to provide themselves and game developers with a solid, never changing framework. Time will tell if that’s was the right move. In the meantime, naysayers are right in some small way. Microsoft has no answer to the Apple TV or Google Chromecast.

But Sony does.

Unveiled shortly before the Tokyo Games Show in Japan, Sony snuck its pint-sized Vita TV set-top box through the entertainment market’s backdoor. When Vita TV debuts this November in Asian markets, users can expect to browse the content they’ve previously paid Sony for, plus a huge bevy of entertainment applications. We’re talking everything from the Amazon Kindle-like Sony Reader service, to its Music Unlimited subscription service and even a web browser.

Those aren’t the killer features though. Where it really gets interesting is the console’s built in Wi-Fi and support for Sony’s game streaming technology. Sony says that the device will allow PlayStation 4 users to stream games to the Vita TV in markets where it’s available. Did I mention it can play PlayStation Vita and PlayStation One games, without streaming, too?  Directly translated for price, it works out to be around $100 for the unit itself, excluding the cost of a controller.

Simply put, the Vita TV is the box that hardcore gamers who don’t have enough time on their hands to play more often, have said they’ve always wanted. A light gaming machine that offers all of the entertainment abilities of a modern gaming console, without the added expense. I’m not entirely sure it’ll sell, and since the company hasn’t detailed any launch plans for the United States, it may not ever make it to American shores.

Still, it appears Sony played Microsoft when it said that it would only offer users one new version of its console this year. Together with the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation 4, the Vita TV makes three. Each is specifically targeted at one particular niche. Each also has a price tailored for its particular audience.

$100 to play music, videos and games  vs. $499 to do the same isn’t exactly a fair fight

Should Sony ever launch the Vita TV in the United States, I would think that it would simply blow the Xbox One out in sheer sales volume. You know, provided that a pure entertainment console with games as an option really is what people want. Content deals aside. $100 to play music, videos and games  vs. $499 to do the same isn’t exactly a fair fight.

For a company who tried to sell users on the idea that paying $599 for a pure gaming console was the right idea in 2006, it seems someone has gotten their groove back.

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