Valve and Xi3′s Piston: the New Face of Gaming

The Steam Box, codename “Piston,” started as a Kickstarter project by Xi3 that failed. Today, Valve has joined forces with Xi3 to create this punch-packing box of fun that may change the face of gaming hardware.

Valve at the Consumer Electronics Show during the first week of January, Valve and Xi3 revealed a prototype for what they hope will be the new face of gaming: code-name “Piston.” What the Piston project seeks to do is combine a few popular platforms for gaming into one tiny and powerful console, making gaming more centralized and adaptable.

Fitting into the palm of your hand, the Piston began as a Kickstarter project started by Xi3 that originally gained very little support and never left the ground. They did, however, get the attention of Valve, the company that owns and operates the popular computer application, Steam. Currently, Steam is the main source of games for PC gamers. As of now, the project has no release date.

What Piston would offer the gaming community would be a small, lightweight mini-computer capable of running PC and console games on nearly any display, including high definition TV’s. The prototype, revealed at CES, boasted an entire side dedicated to input and output ports. It would mean that users could play any host of games on one machine, connecting a keyboard and mouse or controllers to it depending on their preference. The advantage of the Piston is its versatility. The small box for many users could replace desktop gaming computers as it is rumored to pack fairly substantial specifications.

While none of the device’s specifications or a cost estimation have been released, the console still poses and major threat to console gaming. It is rumored to come equipped with AMD’s A-series Fusion “Trinity” or “Richland” accelerated processing unit, but nothing has been released or confirmed officially. Companies like Microsoft and Nintendo could potentially see a drop in console sales as well as the non-digital game copies as a result of the Piston.

One of the make-or-break points for the Piston is cost since the machine is likely to be application-based (meaning that it will not have support for non-Steam applications like word processing, internet, etc.). A higher price could mean a limited market because of its practical, non-gaming limitations. Like with most machines, be it for gaming or not, there is a constant tug of war between power and price, and for the Piston it’s just a matter of time before we find out.

5 Responses to “Valve and Xi3′s Piston: the New Face of Gaming”

  1. Hans

    > One of the make-or-break points for the
    > Piston is cost since the machine is likely
    > to be application-based (meaning that it
    > will not have support for non-Steam applications like word
    > processing, internet, etc.)

    Actually, a web browser is built into the steam client. On the current PC version of Steam it is accessible by pressing [Shift]+[Tab]

    • Annie

      Yes, that is right. It doesn’t appear to be anything near a full computer. Like the Chrome Book, it looks like the Piston will be able to do Steam gaming and web browsing, but nothing beyond that really. This isn’t supposed to be a replacement for computers, just possibly for gaming computers. Cost is entirely speculation right now, but I agree. Price will be a make-or-break for the Piston, but I did see a rumor that there will be two options for specs, a cheaper model and a high end model. There is still hope!

  2. Sam P.

    Any links or sources for this information?
    #1 Besides “Steam is the main source of games for PC gamers” is quite the statement, got any info to back this up? I have Steam but 80% my games aren’t connected to it and I doubt that I alone in this.
    #2 It is my understanding that Steam has been working on a Linux version of their platform, specifically Ubuntu. I would question that Steam would create a whole OS for their console, it seems more likely that they would just use a compatible Linux distribution and build on that. If that is the case, then other Linux compatible software should be available, such as LibreOffice and the likes.

    sources or links of interest:

    • Annie

      Thank you for bringing up these points! You are right, the language was a little too definitive to stand alone without sources or backing statements. According to Wikipedia, “Steam has an estimated 50–70% share of the digital distribution market for video games.”
      As for creating a new OS for a new console, I am not positive on the details and I don’t think can be until more information is released. As of now, the only specs that I have been able to hunt down are speculative or not finalized, but as far as I know they are using the “Big Picture” mode that Steam’s desktop client offers. Whether this will be on its own new OS, or just adapted for the Piston I am not sure of.

  3. Andy

    Piston isn’t steambox. It’s just a third party product that valve was backing. Steambox is still out there. Price point has already been made public and its no where near low enough for a high adoption rate required to make a dent in anything.


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