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.