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Valve Distancing Itself From Piston, 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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  • Skcor
    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?
    Reply
  • unksol
    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.
    Reply
  • wannabepro
    Damn..

    I was really hoping for a cheap(ish) console alternative that could run pc games.
    Reply
  • Borisblade7
    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.
    Reply
  • stickmansam
    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
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    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.
    Reply
  • 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....
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    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.
    Reply
  • echondo
    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.
    Reply
  • internetlad
    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?
    Reply