The video games industry has recently been chattering in hushed tones about the likelihood of an apocalyptic scenario. "I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily," Valve's Gabe Newell said of the possibility that Cupertino might extend its impact on the gaming scene, from smartphones and tablets to TV screens. "Apple has gained a huge amount of market share,” he says, “and has a relatively obvious pathway toward entering the living room with their platform." And with iOS 7 leading to the first game controllers with official support at the system level, that moment has never seemed closer.

The PS Vita TV looks an awful lot like Sony's attempt to preempt that eventuality. Released in Japan this week, it mirrors the Apple TV in many ways: it’s a small, roughly $99 box that repurposes mobile hardware to fit your TV set. But the Vita TV is based on the PS Vita handheld, meaning that it can offer a premium gaming platform in addition to the usual media functionality. Sony has all the pieces of the puzzle here — the games, the controller, the content.

On paper it's an exciting and promising system, then, but Sony isn't doing much to talk about it. There aren't any international release plans for now, and here in Japan it's been quietly pushed out in the same week that the US is experiencing the full force of Sony's PlayStation 4 marketing blitz. So what is the PS Vita TV? Is it an essential part of Sony's living room strategy, or a consolation prize for Japanese customers who have to wait three more months for the PS4?