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Xi3 Explains Why Piston Isn't a Steam Machine

By , photo by Marcus Yam - Source: PC Gamer | B 14 comments

Recently, during CES 2014, PC Gamer got a chance to chat with Xi3 CMO David Politis about why the Piston isn't a Steam Machine. That was the general assumption last year during CES when it was first revealed; that Xi3's Piston was a Steam "Box" because (1) Valve was financially involved (2) the name was Valve-ish (3) the contraption fit Valve's modular vision.

But then just two months later, Valve nuked all dreams of the Piston serving as the first Steam Box by saying it wasn't involved with Xi3 after all. Then, as we saw at the end of 2013, the Xi3 Piston is not a Steam Machine at all. Instead, it's a palm-sized powerhouse built for powerful Windows-based PC gaming at a powerful $999 price.

Still, what happened between Valve and Xi3? Where did the love go?

"We're still friends. We still love Valve, we love Steam," Politis told PC Gamer. According to the interview, the two parted ways due to philosophical differences.

Essentially, Xi3 wanted the end user to have access to all games. The Piston comes pre-loaded with Windows dressed in a custom UI, but the owner has the freedom to install Linux and even Android. However, the company doesn't think now is the time to completely abandon the dominant operating system and exclude other PC gaming services.

"We believe, and I think the market's very clear about this, that the biggest concentration today is in the Windows marketplace," Politis says, "So we've gone separate directions today—that doesn't mean we're not supporting Valve."

In fact, Steam is one of the featured items in the Piston UI along with Electronic Arts' own storefront, Origin. "We believe that if you can play it on a computer you should be able to play it on a Piston—and that's our whole viewpoint," Politis adds.

Add your comment Display 14 Comments.
Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    vmem , January 16, 2014 8:56 AM
    @Gunbusteryes, but the so called 'real steam machines' are really just fancy boutique PCs running a free OS from Steam so that the OEM doesn't have to pay Microsoft $50 per license sold... those of us hanging out here at Tom's are still better off just installing Steam OS onto something we already have
Other Comments
  • -2 Hide
    Gunbuster , January 16, 2014 8:31 AM
    More like it has a weak laptop video card that can barely play games at low settings and still costs $1400.The real steam machines absolutely destroy their little cube…
  • 11 Hide
    vmem , January 16, 2014 8:56 AM
    @Gunbusteryes, but the so called 'real steam machines' are really just fancy boutique PCs running a free OS from Steam so that the OEM doesn't have to pay Microsoft $50 per license sold... those of us hanging out here at Tom's are still better off just installing Steam OS onto something we already have
  • 9 Hide
    realibrad , January 16, 2014 8:59 AM
    The computer is actually $999, not $1,400. Also, there is not a set "steam machine." You could load any computer with the steam OS, and play games. I think the only issue is how big of a market is for this PC. PS4 is cheaper, and can probably output the same performance but at a much lower price. If you need a small computer that can do some gaming, then this is for you, but if you just want a gaming machine, then I think a new console would better serve you at a lower price point.
  • 0 Hide
    xomm , January 16, 2014 9:40 AM
    My view is that there isn't much of a market for this kind of PC. Sure it's tiny, and can play games, but do people need anything *that* small? A HTPC or mini-ITX case doesn't take up that much more space, and is a much better bang-for-your-buck deal.
  • 5 Hide
    Saljen , January 16, 2014 10:02 AM
    Did he say "custom UI" on top of Windows? NNNNNNOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • -1 Hide
    Saljen , January 16, 2014 10:19 AM
    Did he say "custom UI" on top of Windows? NNNNNNOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 0 Hide
    WithoutWeakness , January 16, 2014 10:22 AM
    Quote:
    My view is that there isn't much of a market for this kind of PC. Sure it's tiny, and can play games, but do people need anything *that* small? A HTPC or mini-ITX case doesn't take up that much more space, and is a much better bang-for-your-buck deal.

    Intel's NUC and Gigabyte's BRIX, alongside many other designs, are in a similar or smaller form factor to the Piston machine. There absolutely is a market for machines this small. I plan on buying a NUC or BRIX to hook up to my TV in my living room once Valve introduces the streaming feature to Steam and SteamOS. The small 4"x4" footprint in my media console is worth the extra money to me even when compared to small mITX enclosures. I know that the smaller form factor sacrifices some of the ability to use off-the-shelf parts to upgrade it in the future but for a stream-only device I don't need room to put in a dedicated Radeon or GeForce card. Intel's on-die Haswell HD graphics are more than enough for LAN streaming. Buying the right device will serve me well for years without needing an upgrade.
  • 1 Hide
    boytitan2 , January 16, 2014 10:29 AM
    A custom U.I. see that sounds interesting and the modular design sounds like a way better idea than the steam machines Valve and Piston shot them selves in the foot if they had one of these things for 500,700, and 1000 bucks Let steam O.S. develop more released this around September and you would have had a real console competitor.
  • 1 Hide
    alextheblue , January 16, 2014 4:53 PM
    Quote:
    "We believe that if you can play it on a computer you should be able to play it on a Piston—and that's our whole viewpoint," Politis adds.
    I still won't be buying one, because I don't buy form factors I can build myself. However, Xi3 does win a lot of respect from me with this statement. I'm somewhat stunned they had the balls to stand up to Valve and say that they didn't want to limit themselves to Steam, especially in light of their working relationship prior to this.

    Don't get me wrong, I use Steam a lot. But I don't want to be tied to ONLY Steam. One nice thing about having a Windows box is that I can integrate Steam, but I also have access to other marketplaces. For Valve, cutting out access to other marketplaces is the whole point of SteamOS. They get a cut from every sale, and so they want you to own and use a machine that only offers their marketplace. Over time Valve has become less focused on PC gaming, and more interested in competing with the console makers.
  • 0 Hide
    xomm , January 16, 2014 4:53 PM
    Quote:

    Intel's NUC and Gigabyte's BRIX, alongside many other designs, are in a similar or smaller form factor to the Piston machine. There absolutely is a market for machines this small. I plan on buying a NUC or BRIX to hook up to my TV in my living room once Valve introduces the streaming feature to Steam and SteamOS. The small 4"x4" footprint in my media console is worth the extra money to me even when compared to small mITX enclosures. I know that the smaller form factor sacrifices some of the ability to use off-the-shelf parts to upgrade it in the future but for a stream-only device I don't need room to put in a dedicated Radeon or GeForce card. Intel's on-die Haswell HD graphics are more than enough for LAN streaming. Buying the right device will serve me well for years without needing an upgrade.


    I understand having a cheap/low-power PC for streaming, planning on getting one myself.

    I take issue with the Piston specifically because there's a lot of misleading advertising around it, and the fact that it costs $1000. It very clearly advertises itself as a "powerful gaming machine" on their website:
    Quote:
    Displays x 3:
    With native triple monitor support, the PISTON Console gaming computer offers a truly immersive experience. Surround yourself with vivid visuals supported by 384 graphics cores that deliver stunningly smooth gameplay and uninterrupted gaming action.

    If 384 VILW4 shaders can provide smooth triple-monitor gameplay on modern titles, I'll eat my own hat.

    There's an emphasis on modularity, but no meaningful upgrades can be made to the components that are user-servicable (8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, I/O), and the only external module they have is a 1TB HDD. There's also the claim that it somehow uses 10% of the power of a similarly equipped PC, which IMO is complete bollocks.

    I'm only mad because I've had a couple friends who almost gave into the marketing hype.
  • 1 Hide
    Monochrome_Night , January 16, 2014 8:15 PM
    $1,000 for something that's not even fit to play at 720p? What were they thinking??
  • 1 Hide
    photonboy , January 16, 2014 11:17 PM
    GAMING PERFORMANCE of the $1000 version has already been tested and it's horrible, horrible, horrible. It also sucks.I forget the numbers now but I believe it was something like 7FPS versus what you could build for the same price and get 60FPS. Yep.
  • 0 Hide
    cypeq , January 17, 2014 4:27 AM
    Quote:
    GAMING PERFORMANCE of the $1000 version has already been tested and it's horrible, horrible, horrible. It also sucks.I forget the numbers now but I believe it was something like 7FPS versus what you could build for the same price and get 60FPS. Yep.
    I also don't get it that's why I'm not in the market for mico PC. If it doesn't fit 10"+ GPU it's not gaming pc.
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , January 17, 2014 5:26 AM
    Hilarious, every gaming PC released this year has had ridiculous journalism dubbing them "Steam Machines", as if pretty much every PC created couldn't install it, when here is a PC that is fully capable of installing SteamOS and suddenly it isn't a Steam Machine?Seriously, make your minds up.
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