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Valve-backed living room PC system debuts at CES 2013

Tuesday, 8th January 2013 01:32 GMT By Staff

Valve and Xi3 will today show off a modular computer designed for Steam and the big screen TV in your living room – a “Steambox”, in other words.

The hardware was developed by Xi3 but financially backed by Valve. It’s not ready for launch yet, and Xi3 is calling the hardware shown at CES 2013 a “development stage” product. But there’s a picture of the chassis available; it’s said to be the size of a grapefruit. Check it out below.

The new product hasn’t got an official name yet, but has been codenamed “Piston”, and is designed specifically for Steam and its Big Picture mode, with Xi3 making specific reference to home use as well as LAN parties.

“This new development stage product will allow users to take full-advantage of their large high-definition TV displays for an amazing computer game experience. As a result, this new system could provide access to thousands of gaming titles through an integrated system that exceeds the capabilities of leading game consoles, but can fit in the palm of your hand,” Xi3 CEO Jason A. Sullivan said.

The modular computer will be on show at Valve’s CES 2013 booth, but beyond a mention of Valve’s investment, Xi3 has declined to give further comment on the two companies collaboration.

Although the press release specifically mentioned that no technical details would be provided right now, Xi3 marketing officer David Politis told Polygon that it is similar to the X7A line in both specifications and likely price – so about $1,000.

It will have up to 1TB of internal storage and allow for component upgrades such as RAM and even CPU, coupling the console-like convenience of standardised hardware with PC future proofing.

Polygon reports from the CES 2013 showfloor that the prototype Piston on show had HDMI out, two mini display ports, four USB 2.0 ports including one dedicated to a keyboard, four USB 3.0 ports, ethernet, four eSATAp ports, and both optical and bog standard audio out.

It’s not clear if this is the hardware referenced in yesterday’s reports of a Linux-based Steambox to debut in 2013.

Valve told Polygon the firm will be meeting with hardware and content developers to show “multiple” custom hardware prototypes during CES 2013.

“Valve will be at CES to meet with hardware and content developers in our booth space,” Valve marketing director Doug Lombardi said. “We are bringing multiple custom prototypes as well as some off-the-shelf PCs to our CES meetings.”

The prototypes were described by Lombardi as “low-cost, high-performance designs for the living room that are great candidates for Steam and Big Picture,” with more information released to the press and public “in the coming months.”

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60 Comments

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  1. Talkar

    I’m really interested to see how they try to sell this one. I don’t see the upside of owning one of these boxes compared to a computer i built myself. But i’ll wait and see what PR talk they have ready and see if there is atleast something good about owning this :P

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Christopher Jack

    Well there’s hardly 1000s of mainstream games that natively support Linux…

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Erthazus

    I’m actually dissapointed.

    so this is something close to OUYA but with Steam exclusivity. I just hope that Steambox is something else. Like a next gen system or something.

    I won’t buy this unless there is Half-Life 3 obviously :)

    Still, too early to say something about it.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. OlderGamer

    Not enough info just yet. I want alot more details.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Dragon246

    Steambox? Not so interesting as of now.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. CPC_RedDawn

    LOL the size of a grapefruit. Meaning extremely small, and no one had mentioned anything about a cloud based gaming service? Maybe valve has secretly worked a way to stream games through current internet speeds with minimal lag input. Streaming indie games such as Braid, Limbo, etc on todays speeds should be easy but games like CS:GO, COD, etc these twitch shooters that really need as little latency as possible and as many frames as possible. Maybe they have created a way to do this.

    Somehow… I dont think so. I bet this is just a small box that will allow people to install it into their living rooms and wirelessly stream games rendered on their actual gaming PC’s to their TV’s which should be simple as this means the “cloud” or “server” is literally in the next room (or same house).

    I would actually consider buying this, it would save me the time of actually having to buy and build my self a second system which is what I was going to do which would be my steam big picture machine.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Diingo

    ^^^ The only main example of cloud gaming we’ve seen is Onlive which has proven not to function too well. If the internet connection isn’t top notch there will be lots of latency – especially while using wifi.

    Valve has a lot to prove because they’re now a 4th contender in the console war (5 if you count Ouya).

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Phoenixblight

    @7

    There are other cloud services that have proven to function far better than Onlive such as Galkai and Square’s service too.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Telepathic.Geometry

    Holy fuck, this must surely be the news story of the fucking year… Shirley!!!

    @Brenna: In your excitement to pist this story”The modular computer will be on show at Va[[[k]]]ve’s CES 2013 booth…”

    @Talkar: I don’t think that this is for Full-on PC gamers like you, I think it’s more for the masses of PC-lite gamer types like me, who want to play, but are to cantankerous to go to all the effort involved.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. DonSolo

    LAN Parties? What games include lan options now a days?

    Also check out the esata ports guessing its bring your own hard drive.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Brenna Hillier

    Updated with some details of the hardware.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Telepathic.Geometry

    Ouch, that price hurts just lookin’ at it…

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Dragon246

    This will only attract NOBODY. Steam doesn’t know a thing about hardware. Console making is not a child’s play. The sooner steam understands it, the better. If they want to succeed, they need to attract non-pc gamers who form the bulk of console biz. Frankly, I don’t see steam even making a dent in console biz for atleast a few years unless they team up with a big hardware cos. Sony and MS have established themselves in market and ninty being ninty knows how to make a console. Steam definitely has its work cut out for it.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Telepathic.Geometry

    @Dragon: I don’t know much about their plans, but I think you count Valve out at your peril. They are a very dynamic company, I think if they smeared shit on a brick in the shape of a lambda and released it with Half-Life 3, it’d sell like hot-cakes.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Dragon246

    @14
    Do you really think people will buy a console for a game? Just check the attach rates of best games on a console. That is an argument only made by elitists.
    Valve cant do a thing alone without a hardware partner, a big at that. Sony, MS , to some extent ninty too are household names (almost everyone knows sony and ms). Steam, not so much. Marketing, distribution and all this issues are blissfully ignored by most journos and gamers because they don’t know jack about them. Sony succeeded because of their established supply line, music industry and so many other factors. MS was also only able to get after sinking billions.
    So yeah, I see value failing hard since both sony and ms lost money that is more than the total value of valve, which is a paltry 2.5b$, nothing compared to big 3. Hell, sony “lost” 5b$ in a year but still has 11b$ worth of cash lying around. MS has profits of 5b$+ in a year.
    You get the picture I guess.
    That said, competition is always good for the consumer,and if they force all online shops to reduce prices and offer more sales, all the better.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Telepathic.Geometry

    Well, like I said, I don’t really know, but the big three designed their own hardware from scratch, whereas Valve would be (presumably) building an open PC with off the shelf parts. Amongst PC gamers, and more broadly, gamers they are virtually a household brand.

    I imagine that their main challenge would be establishing a PC standard that devs could live with, and right now devs are struggling to support every conceivable PC configuration imaginable, so I guess they might welcome a standard. Slap “Valve approved” on the box and ship…

    #16 2 years ago
  17. G1GAHURTZ

    Like I said yesterday…

    No hardware that’s worth dedicating to Steam is going to be able to compete with any console when it comes to cost.

    Besides, this can’t surely be the so-called Steambox?

    It’s an SFF PC. They’ve been around for years, and aren’t anything new.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Telepathic.Geometry

    No, I don’t think it is, as the Steambox will apparently run a version of Linux…

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Dragon246

    @TG,
    Its more difficult than you think mate. Also, is pc gaming only steam and nothing else? I seriously doubt that. PC gaming is now mainly dominated by FTP structure and mmos, a market hardly dominated by steam. I would say steam realised that their future is not ideal and that’s why they decided to take the plunge. Makes perfect sense, although will they be successful, I seriously doubt that. They just dont have the marketing resources of big 3.
    Hint- MS spent over a billion dollars in marketing alone for win8, can steam afford even 1/4th of that, I seriously doubt that.

    Also what will steambox offer that steam doesn’t ?

    #19 2 years ago
  20. polygem

    so dragon, YOU’RE not interested so it MUST mean NOONE is interested. i knew that’s your attitude.
    the sooner valve understands your wise words the better for them. sure. who are you again? please start reflecting what you’re basically saying- your attitude- man, and i really, seriously mean it in a good way, not because i want to attack you.
    i think you’re judging way to early. now you are the one telling valve that building consoles is not a child’s play…well i guess posting on the internet is.
    i for one need much more infos, but i am sure interested in it and think it could be a fantastic alternative to ps4 and nextbox. i’ll start speculating and discussing when there will be more infos available. i am really excited about this.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. frostquake

    I told you so!!! LOL But I am with Older Gamer, us Old Geezers think alike, Want more Info!! And you young kids “GET OFF MY LAWN”, Oh wait it is the Future, Um..Well..Um you young Kids “GET OFF MY TABLET!” LOL

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Quige

    Engadget has a photo gallery showing them holding it if you want a better idea of size than ‘grapefruit’ http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/08/hands-on-with-xi3s-piston-modular-pc-at-ces/

    #22 2 years ago
  23. manamana

    … so about 1.000$ … stopped reading there.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. Gadzooks!

    It’s not using standard PC components at that size is it?

    Maybe CPU/RAM is upgradeable, but it doesn’t look especially ‘modular’ to me, from what I can see.

    It’s also WAAAAAAAY too expensive to compete with consoles.

    Halve the price and it starts to look pretty good though, with one caveat: It needs games to be ‘optimised for Steambox’ so the overheads of generalised PC architecture don’t drag it down.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. DrDamn

    @17
    Yep this is just a SFF PC that Valve has had some input on, this isn’t the SteamBox. This is competition for Alienware’s X51.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. roadkill

    Hmm, I don’t think this will attract too many console gamers. It’s still too complicated for their limited intellect. But, we’ll see.. Valve’s nothing less than awesome in almost all things. I can already see people scared of them. Some of them have posted in this thread. :)

    #26 2 years ago
  27. PenTaFH

    @19
    The fun thing is, Valve’s finances are a closely guarded secret. But it’s a pretty sure thing to say that the company has at least a few billion lying around. At the very least, their own games sell quite well. On top of that, Steam takes quite a sizable portion from all sales made on the platform.

    And while I like both the design and specs of this box, I can only be baffled at its price. Hot damn, $1000? For that kind of money I do expect a solid state drive in there.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. Edo

    Yeah,good luck with that especially if it’s anywhere near 1000 $.

    #28 2 years ago
  29. Talkar

    @9
    I never even considered that possibility. That seems very likely.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. orakaa

    1000$ ? “just” for a living room PC, dedicated to gaming and web browsing ?
    No thanks. I’m with what Dragon said on this one.

    Even I who consider myself “enlightened” (or “aware” if you prefer) about Steam and what it has to offer, I would not consider investing 1 000$ for ANOTHER PC, just for my living room (I need to have a PC on my desk for work, and I play both on this PC and on my consoles on my TV). I can HARDLY see this product appeal to a SIGNIFICANT number of people. Sure, there are some enthusiasts here, but we’re not talking about that, we’re talking about being this a commercial success or not (and it won’t).

    I remember back in the days when NES and SEGA Master System were there (yes, a VERY long time ago). Apart from those two, you had better living room gaming systems like the MSX, and NEC PC Engine. Guess what? None of them were commercial successes as NES and SEGA Master System were. Why? No marketing, no public awareness, no good distribution.

    #30 2 years ago
  31. viralshag

    Haha, who would seriously buy this? Surely that’s too expensive for any console gamer to pay to get on the PC wagon and any PC gamer could build something great for less.

    Build your own and/or buy a decent cable if you’re that desperate to game on a TV.

    #31 2 years ago
  32. Edo

    Here’s how this thingy actually(honest to god I hope it’s not the alleged Steambox)looks like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isfqiYG7wiI .

    #32 2 years ago
  33. Mike W

    Yea I spent about $1100 building my monster PC, I don’t see myself buying this. Plus I’m already signed up for steam.

    #33 2 years ago
  34. Talkar

    @31
    It is Valve, they aren’t exactly known for thinking stuff through, just look at how Steam Greenlight was planned, executed and failed horribly x)

    #34 2 years ago
  35. Moonwalker1982

    I’m confused as hell now. This isn’t the Steambox Console that Valve is making, right? This is basically a compact PC, right? And the Steambox will be a real console?

    #35 2 years ago
  36. Dragon246

    @Poly
    Since you don’t think before commenting, look how many people share my views and how many yours. You sure like to be in the minority room.
    Also, don’t start blabbering about expensive next gen now, since they won’t be half the price of this.

    Your comment are ridiculous to say the least. You are the only one here who is troubled by my every comment.

    #36 2 years ago
  37. Moonwalker1982

    It seems you cannot upgrade the GPU? Then it makes no sense to buy this if you really want to go to PC gaming. You might as well buy a real PC then.

    #37 2 years ago
  38. Da Man

    So pretty much a shitty Mac Mini with a shitty OS and a catalog of computer toys you can play on an Xbox360 or PS3.

    #38 2 years ago
  39. ps3fanboy

    SO THIS “STEAMBOX” WAS GONNA TAKE OVER THE WORLD AND MAKE PEOPLE STOP BUYING PC AND CONSOLES… IT WAS THE DEATH OF COMING PC AND CONSOLES, IT WAS SAID….

    THIS “STEAMBOX” LOOKS MORE LIKE BAD JOKE GONE WRONG THAN ANYTHING ELSE…

    #39 2 years ago
  40. Christopher Jack

    @38, Oh, so you know its OS? Do you care to share?

    #40 2 years ago
  41. Da Man

    ^Why don’t you shut the trap, 5 am again over there? What suddenly happened to your shitty attitude towards Sffs?

    Linux, isn’t it.

    #41 2 years ago
  42. Moonwalker1982

    From what i understand this isn’t the Steam Box, this is not a console and this doesn’t run Linux. The Steambox is on Linux.

    #42 2 years ago
  43. Eddie Rodrigues

    I’m actually pleased with PC industry taking the lead towards console market, this beauty right here MIGHT even ‘crush’ Shield if Valve plays with the right cards: lesser price and a temporary exclusivity of a game (as @3 stated, HL3, even though it would have to be on Steam so PC gamers would be able to get it too)

    #43 2 years ago
  44. Moonwalker1982

    @43

    It’s definitely an interesting thing, but if this report is right and you can’t upgrade the GPU, you might as well just buy a normal PC, don’t you think? Cause as soon as a very demanding game comes out, you are fucked. We’re gonna have to wait and see what MS and Sony come up with in terms of new consoles. One thing is for sure, it’s gonna be a very interesting year.

    #44 2 years ago
  45. Dragon246

    @42
    Completely agree. This is not steambox.

    #45 2 years ago
  46. ps3fanboy

    @45

    did you have problem reading this??…

    “Valve and Xi3 will today show off a modular computer designed for Steam and the big screen TV in your living room – a “Steambox”, in other words.”

    #46 2 years ago
  47. Belmont

    I have a hard time finding anything interesting with this. I also think it is not that Steambox which is talked about.
    Regarding HL3 exclusivity being a selling point. I doubt that. Idon’t hate HL but I find it to be a relic of the past. After such a long time past Episode 2 and so many awards,the expectations have reached stratosphere and anything less than a perfect 10 will disappoint most of gamers.

    #47 2 years ago
  48. Moonwalker1982

    @46

    I find it all very confusing. Last thing i read was that the Steambox runs on Linux..and this one doesn’t. I don’t know what is what now anymore.

    #48 2 years ago
  49. DrDamn

    @46
    That’s what Brenna wrote. This hasn’t been announced as *the* SteamBox, more a box which can run Steam. Quite a big difference.

    It could be that this was the development underpinning the SteamBox rumours, but this doesn’t sound like what those rumours pointed to. This is an Xi3 product part-funded/backed by Valve, not a Valve product.

    #49 2 years ago
  50. Dragon246

    @46
    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-01-08-valves-steam-box-revealed-as-piston-and-made-by-xi3

    “Is this Valve’s Steam Box? It’s a computer codenamed Piston made by Xi3.

    This development-stage computer was shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. Piston is designed specifically to support Steam and its Big Picture mode for TVs. But Valve’s role was described by Xi3 as only an investor in Xi3, nothing more. Were this the fabled Steam Box, wouldn’t Valve be shouting about it?”

    #50 2 years ago
  51. Cobra951

    I want to see more details, but so far, I’m not impressed. I can do a lot with $1000, and attaching a grapefruit-sized PC to my living-room TV is way down the priority list for such a large wad of green. Maybe they’ll firm up the price better in the days to come, at arrive at a more palatable figure.

    #51 2 years ago
  52. Moonwalker1982

    Yeah,so we still got to find out about the Steambox. Still curious about it too.

    #52 2 years ago
  53. Dragon246

    Thing is, it just can’t be the steambox, unless steam really has lost all the brains it had and forgot what a console is and its supposed to do.

    #53 2 years ago
  54. Erthazus

    “what a console is and its supposed to do”

    and what it’s supposed to do?

    #54 2 years ago
  55. Dragon246

    @54
    Its supposed to provide a cheaper and simpler alternative to pc gaming. But now, the definition has broadened. Many consumers expect consoles to be an all in one entertainment centre, something both 360 and ps3 has achieved quite well, and something where steam looks it will fail unless they broaden their multimedia scope outside of games.

    #55 2 years ago
  56. Erthazus

    @55, what you described it will absolutely do wth Big Picture.

    In fact, as a Service Steam is miles ahead of PSN and XBL. Valve never failed and this will be successfull to some people. That’s for sure.

    Especially if that thing will be priced for 99$, just like OUYA.

    #56 2 years ago
  57. Dragon246

    @56
    If its priced 99$, it will destroy ms and sony and ninty.
    1000$? It will destroy itself.
    That’s the thing. It will be very difficult for valve to undercut big3 in terms of pricing. Think sega and ps1.

    #57 2 years ago
  58. polygem

    edit: there are many people liking the idea dragon or are at least interested in it.

    all i was saying: why judging things, calling out doomsday, even before knowing facts? just because it doesnt seem to be attractive for you it must not mean it’s not interesting for others. just because you think the wiuu tablet is a gimmick, must not mean that it really ”is” a gimmick..i just don’t like that attitude, i think it’s a strange perspective to look at things, so i told you

    #58 2 years ago
  59. Eddie Rodrigues

    @57 if the ‘PURGE COMPETITION’ strategy is what Valve wants then it should be Wii Mini’s price or even $10 less, which might not be the case with the said specs, ALTHOUGH we are talking about Steam, a great platform which daily deals and discounts appeal to the ‘core’ gamer, so the machinery’s price would pay off in comparison to Sony’s or MS’s consoles…

    #59 2 years ago
  60. Stephany Nunneley

    Post has been updated with a bit more information at the end of it.

    #60 2 years ago