Xi3's response seemingly outlines a disagreement over the operating system and game distribution platform.
Xi3 Corporation founder, president and CEO Jason A. Sullivan released a statement on Tuesday in response to Valve's distancing from the company and its products. The message sheds some light on what has happened between the buddy-buddy friendship they shared at CES 2013, and what now seems like a parting of ways.
For starters, Sullivan confirms that it received an investment from Valve, and that the studio gave Xi3 written permission to make the announcement. He also confirms that Valve asked Xi3 to build a product that was later revealed at CES 2013 as Piston. Both companies also showed the compact gaming PC in their respective booths (Valve was on lockdown so we can't confirm).
Now the story takes an interesting turn. "Then, during a meeting with Valve at CES, Gabe Newell personally asked me that we not disclose additional information about our relationship with Valve," Sullivan said. "We have honored that request and will continue to do so."
He goes on to state that Xi3 and Valve never said that Piston was the official Steam Box, but as we've stated in past coverage, reps instead took a "no comment" stance rather than saying "no, it's not Steam Box". Gabe Newell later cleared the air saying that Steam Box would be multiple devices, not merely one standalone desktop (aka a brand).
As for the apparent disassociation, Sullivan said that just because Valve may not "currently" have any involvement with products offered by Xi3, that doesn't mean the duo won't have something to offer in the future. Meanwhile, the Piston Console is seemingly bigger and badder than what Valve plans for its Steam Box thanks to its modular design. It will also initially ship with a Windows operating system, not Linux which will be used on Steam Box.
"Piston will also support a raft of other Internet-based gaming and entertainment platforms, which is more than what Valve apparently has planned for its official Steam Box," he said. "In this way, the Piston Console could be perceived as something more than just a Steam Box, which makes sense because at its core the Piston Console is a Modular Computer that can run any operating system or application designed to run on an x86-based 64-bit computer."
The letter seemingly describes a conflict of interest when it comes to the operating system and game distribution, which may have caused the relationship to dissolve. Windows is where the vast bulk of game software and computer gamers are today, Sullivan said. Razer told us the same thing at CES 2013 when we asked why they chose to use a Windows-based OS for the Razer Edge tablets rather than something cheaper like Ubuntu.
"Contrary to Valve's vision, Xi3 believes that the way to take this to market today is to do so with a Windows OS at the core, coupled with the ability to not just get to one platform/store for games, but to get access to all game stores/platforms," he said. "Studios should have the option to go through Steam if they choose or to go direct to the end-user if they so choose."
That will be the difference between Piston and other Steam Box units: the ability to use a multitude of distribution platforms like Origin, GameFly, Steam and others, he said, instead of relying on just one.
"In closing, what Valve does or doesn't do with its Steam Box will be up to them," he said. "So Gabe, it's up to you. The ball is in your court."