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Valve Distancing Itself From Piston, Xi3 Corp.

By - Source: Eurogamer | B 31 comments

Valve just nuked its ties with Piston manufacturer Xi3 Corp.

During CES 2013, we assumed, like many news outlets, that the Xi3 Piston compact PC was indeed Valve Software's rumored Steam Box. We couldn't get anyone to cough up an actual confirmation during the show, but Valve's involvement with the handheld PC seemed to validate our assumptions. But that all changed on Monday when Xi3 opened up pre-orders, revealing a pricetag that Valve didn't have in mind with its PC-based "console" system.

The Steam Box rumor seemingly solidified into an actual project when Valve and Xi3 said that a modular computer game system optimized for Steam's Big Picture Mode would be revealed at CES 2013 in January. Even more, Xi3 said that it received an investment from Valve. Put two and two together, and you have Steam Box. Boy were we fooled.

Or maybe not. To some degree, both parties were up front and honest about Piston. It's a $1000 compact, modular gaming system optimized for Big Picture Mode and packed with a Radeon 7000-series GPU, a 3.2 GHz AMD Trinity Quad Core (R464) processor, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, and an SSD with capacities ranging from 128 GB to 512 GB. The beauty of this rig is that it's easily upgradeable thanks to its modular design.

What nuked the rumors linking the Piston to Valve's mystery PC gaming console were several factors: (1) the price, as Valve planned to offer initial pricing competitive to new consoles; (2) Gabe Newell said he plans to release Steam Box prototypes to consumers later this year for feedback; and (3) Newell said back in January that there will be a variety of Steam Boxes, one of which will be offered directly to customers by Valve.

Now Valve's Doug Lombardi is actually distancing the studio from Xi3 Corp., saying that Valve at one point had some dealings with the compact PC maker, but those days are over. "Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year, but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs," he said.

That comment is somewhat strange given the seemingly buddy-buddy relationship they shared during CES 2013 -- even their booths were in the same neighborhood. What is a little annoying about the whole Piston-Steam Box story is that when asked if the Piston was indeed Valve's PC gaming console, the Xi3 rep provided a "no comment". Was it too hard to say "no, this isn't Valve's Steam Box"? OR did something change between now and January?

Now we're back to square one.


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  • 20 Hide
    Skcor , March 12, 2013 8:18 PM
    I'm not surprised after Xi3 announced the cost of the thing. How can you compete with game consoles when you are wanting to charge $500 more for specs that are lower than the competition?
  • 13 Hide
    Borisblade7 , March 12, 2013 8:54 PM
    Those prices just make their thing another gimmicky overpriced item that will never catch on. Those specs are 500 dollar range. And those upgrade costs are as rip-off bd as Dell does with alienware. They should make those with a standard HD and the APU for $399 then have versions goin up from there that have various APU upgrades and the SSD options. $1000 for somethin with very small storage and no discrete graphics is a huge ripoff.
Other Comments
  • 20 Hide
    Skcor , March 12, 2013 8:18 PM
    I'm not surprised after Xi3 announced the cost of the thing. How can you compete with game consoles when you are wanting to charge $500 more for specs that are lower than the competition?
  • 7 Hide
    unksol , March 12, 2013 8:33 PM
    OMG their booths were in the same area? They must be together!

    Valve has ALWAYS said "steam box" will be a platform. Which basically just means steam. And while they may make an in house machine, it will be open to all manufactures.

    Anyone who though Xi3 was it would have to be nuts considering their previous unreasonable price and specs. There is no reason to cost so much and be that small except lock in to their upgrade boards. Small form factor PCs can fit normal hardware at much lower prices, and even high end hardware.

    Valve SHOULD distance themselves because this wanna be console maker hurts their idea for steam box with it's insane price.
  • -4 Hide
    wannabepro , March 12, 2013 8:48 PM
    Damn..

    I was really hoping for a cheap(ish) console alternative that could run pc games.
  • 13 Hide
    Borisblade7 , March 12, 2013 8:54 PM
    Those prices just make their thing another gimmicky overpriced item that will never catch on. Those specs are 500 dollar range. And those upgrade costs are as rip-off bd as Dell does with alienware. They should make those with a standard HD and the APU for $399 then have versions goin up from there that have various APU upgrades and the SSD options. $1000 for somethin with very small storage and no discrete graphics is a huge ripoff.
  • 8 Hide
    stickmansam , March 12, 2013 9:01 PM
    Rather get a much more capable mITX build for the same price or an HTPC A10 APU for much cheaper

    It is a nice idea they have going about modularity but hard and likely expensive to implement
  • 3 Hide
    blazorthon , March 12, 2013 9:36 PM
    stickmansamRather get a much more capable mITX build for the same price or an HTPC A10 APU for much cheaperIt is a nice idea they have going about modularity but hard and likely expensive to implement


    They could do it fairly cheaply- just have a few pieces of hardware on expansion cards. There could be a CPU/RAM card (with integrated graphics for lower end models), an internal input/output card (chipsets, SATA, etc.), an external input/output/networking card (USB, Ethernet, WiFi, etc.), a discrete graphics card for higher end models, and so on that attache to a motherboard that is basically just a hub to connect the different card/module components. Using standard hardware with merely modified PCIe card form factors shouldn't be all that expensive.

    Several options for the cards' interface come to mind. If PCIe turned out to be too expensive, the more open HTX (Hyper-Transport eXpansion) interface could be used instead and there are other options too. Xi3 could have done this cheaply and they chose not to. IDK why, but it wasn't because there was no feasible way to do it much more cheaply.
  • -1 Hide
    loops , March 12, 2013 10:13 PM
    it was smart for them to not say much...they now at least know that 1k is not the price range....

    It needs to have an FX chip/7850 range under 450 to make it a viable option. Or they need to just wait for the next APU from AMD to come out....
  • 1 Hide
    blazorthon , March 12, 2013 10:33 PM
    loopsit was smart for them to not say much...they now at least know that 1k is not the price range....It needs to have an FX chip/7850 range under 450 to make it a viable option. Or they need to just wait for the next APU from AMD to come out....


    That's probably a bit of a stretch. It's difficult to even do a home-built system with those specs and otherwise decent hardware in a MicroATX or ATX form factor within a budget that tight.
  • 1 Hide
    echondo , March 12, 2013 10:54 PM
    Finally, a smart article that UNDERSTANDS and DETAILS that the Piston and Xi3 have no affiliation with Valve and their Steambox project! I have been saying this for WEEKS since CES, hell even Valve's booth at CES had a little box that was built for playing TF2, go find that picture and you'll see the size Valve really intends for the Steambox! I believe the article with pictures is on the Verge.
  • -2 Hide
    internetlad , March 13, 2013 2:26 AM
    IMO the steambox won't appeal to enthusiasts. It'll probably be a very low price (for the specs) mid teir gaming PC to lure people away from consoles and act as a transitory device to get more people back into PC gaming by getting them to buy monitor, keyboard, etc and when they're ready to upgrade to a proper gaming system they can.

    Valve has always done accessibility. Why would the Steam Box be any different?
  • 1 Hide
    back_by_demand , March 13, 2013 3:15 AM
    Why does it need to be this small? If it is competing in the TV-attached-console-gaming arena then a similar form factor is acceptable, something the size of a Mini-ITX case. Uses standard PC componants and the only real restriction is if you want a really slim case you will need low-profile graphics (which isn't a huge restriction as you can still get better than HD gaming with some low-profile cards). Standard RAM, standard SSDs or HDDs, install Windows or Linux if you really want to.

    DIY, it's the way, alternately someone out there can start making them and sell them as a Steambox for a LOT less than $1000
  • 2 Hide
    Cons29 , March 13, 2013 3:38 AM
    whether this is steam box or not, there's no way that im buying a $1000 console/pc that has igp while you have console that costs a lot less.

    i love steam but what games can they play using a compact pc? controller friendly game? low graphics?
  • 4 Hide
    kartu , March 13, 2013 3:58 AM
    At 1000k they can keep it for themselves.
    Even at half that price I'd think twice.
    And that "7000 series GPU" is most likely the one on the APU.

    So not so expensive APU + mini motherboard + dirt cheap memory + some SSD = 1000$? Are you kidding me?
  • 0 Hide
    kartu , March 13, 2013 4:36 AM
    blazorthonThat's probably a bit of a stretch. It's difficult to even do a home-built system with those specs and otherwise decent hardware in a MicroATX or ATX form factor within a budget that tight.


    Just tried to configure it on a not so cheap german site, here is the config:
    CPU: AMD A10-5700 (Trinity) - 112.90
    Case: SilverStone SUGO SG06B USB 3.0 - 117.90
    HDD: ADATA Premier Pro SP900 2,5" SSD 128 GB - 102.90
    Mainboard: MSI FM2-A75IA-E53 Sound G-LAN WLAN SATA3 USB 3.0 eSATA BT 1 - 83.90
    RAM: ADATA DIMM 8 GB DDR3-1866 Kit - 64.90

    Total: 482,50 Euro.
  • 0 Hide
    CarolKarine , March 13, 2013 5:16 AM
    kartuJust tried to configure it on a not so cheap german site, here is the config:CPU: AMD A10-5700 (Trinity) - 112.90Case: SilverStone SUGO SG06B USB 3.0 - 117.90HDD: ADATA Premier Pro SP900 2,5" SSD 128 GB - 102.90Mainboard: MSI FM2-A75IA-E53 Sound G-LAN WLAN SATA3 USB 3.0 eSATA BT 1 - 83.90RAM: ADATA DIMM 8 GB DDR3-1866 Kit - 64.90Total: 482,50 Euro.


    euros a big step up from USD.
  • 2 Hide
    Fulgurant , March 13, 2013 5:37 AM
    Quote:
    Just tried to configure it on a not so cheap german site, here is the config:
    CPU: AMD A10-5700 (Trinity) - 112.90
    Case: SilverStone SUGO SG06B USB 3.0 - 117.90
    HDD: ADATA Premier Pro SP900 2,5" SSD 128 GB - 102.90
    Mainboard: MSI FM2-A75IA-E53 Sound G-LAN WLAN SATA3 USB 3.0 eSATA BT 1 - 83.90
    RAM: ADATA DIMM 8 GB DDR3-1866 Kit - 64.90

    Total: 482,50 Euro.


    Gotta keep the context in mind. Blaz responded to someone who insisted on much higher specs than the ones you've posted:

    Quote:
    loops
    it was smart for them to not say much...they now at least know that 1k is not the price range....It needs to have an FX chip/7850 range under 450 to make it a viable option. Or they need to just wait for the next APU from AMD to come out....

    That's probably a bit of a stretch. It's difficult to even do a home-built system with those specs and otherwise decent hardware in a MicroATX or ATX form factor within a budget that tight.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    An HD 7850 kicks the living crap out of a Trinity's integrated GPU. It's also a rather large discrete part (as of right now). Then, of course, there's the exhange-rate issue Carol mentioned.
  • 0 Hide
    gggplaya , March 13, 2013 5:43 AM
    The only people i see buying these things are people that travel alot. As most hotels rooms are switched/switching to LCD tv's. Just plug in the HDMI cable, power and a controller, and maybe a portable keyboard for people that can't live without their MMOG.
  • -1 Hide
    corvak , March 13, 2013 7:01 AM
    Steam Box will be like the Android OS.

    Valve provides software, but doesn't monopolize hardware - anyone can produce a "steam box" and I am sure we will see varying prices and hardware configurations.
  • 0 Hide
    captaincharisma , March 13, 2013 7:45 AM
    i don't know how long this thing will last in the long run considering with PC gaming you will have to eventually update a GPU and/or CPU in the next few years to play the latest games decently
  • 1 Hide
    darcotech , March 13, 2013 8:51 AM
    THe cost is due mainly because of their specific concept. They designed motherboard, specific connectors, etc...
    But the pricing is completely off the reality. PS4 and next Xbox will be somewhere 500-600USD when they go out. You will have small android based game consoles for 100-150USD if the size is that important. And those console will get updated every year. If you play Real Racing on some modern smartphone (quadcore CPU) ou will see graphics are really great. By the end of the year there will be even better hardware.

    So they are going against Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and those small android consoles with 1000USD product! They should spend some time researching the market.
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