It Begins: Valve And Xi3 Team For ‘Piston’ Steam Box

By Nathan Grayson on January 8th, 2013 at 9:00 am.

Expect EA to announce a competing Origin-branded kiwi tomorrow.

Hey everyone, you’re never going to believe this. The Steam Box? It’s totally real. I know, right? I mean, a series of totally unsubstantiated rumors from Valve alphabeard Gabe Newell was dubious at best, and Big Picture mode spent so much time in development for no reason whatsoever. But somehow – completely unexpectedly – we’re now here, watching Valve and mini-PC maker Xi3 team up to reveal “an integrated system that exceeds the capabilities of leading game consoles, but can fit in the palm of your hand.” Xi3 also compared the device’s physical size to that of a grapefruit, meaning that this is yet another mind-blowing technological advancement I’ll have to worry about accidentally eating.

Beyond those (subject to change) physical specs and full Steam integration, details are depressingly scarce at the moment. Fortunately, an in-development version of the magical space grapefruit will be squirting its Valve-flavored juices into show-goers’ eyes at CES this week, so hopefully we’ll have more specifics soon. Until then, though, here’s Xi3 being really pleased with themselves.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era for Xi3,” said Jason A. Sullivan, founder, President and CEO of Xi3. “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.”

It’s also worth noting that Valve’s also made a full-blown investment in Xi3, so this isn’t just some throwaway third-party project. Or at least, it certainly doesn’t seem that way. Meanwhile, a Linux-powered Steam box was allegedly revealed in Germany yesterday, but there’s no telling if the two are one in the same.

So then, the plot thickens, and CES continues to be a treasure trove of interesting (if not necessarily glamorous) windows into the future of PC gaming. The most obvious message here? There are a lot of powerful people attempting to push PC gaming into the living room. Will it work? Will it become the new standard? And, if so, how will the change of scenery affect the focus of the games people choose to develop for our most marvellous of mother platforms? Seems like we’ll get answers to these questions sooner rather than later. Personally, so long as I get to keep my thriving mod and indie scenes, I’m fine with playing anywhere – office, bedroom, living room, in a box, with a fox, whatever.

Actually, that brings us to the rather interesting question of what defines PC gaming as a whole and whether or not this type of thing presents a threat to that essence. So I’m curious: what specific thing(s) makes PC gaming for you, and are you worried that wading into “enemy” (read: console) territory could extinguish that?

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234 Comments »

  1. yogibbear says:

    ZOMG YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

    • Knightley4 says:

      Ha-ha. No.

      • Suits says:

        Definite maybe

        • uh20 says:

          this thing looks adorable… definitely knocks down the ‘small’ requirement consoles these days kind of forgot about….

    • Syra says:

      Not sure if YES – but certainly, yes.

      From gamesindustry biz –

      Xi3 showed off its prototype unit – code-named Piston – to Polygon, based on the X7A model detailed in the Kickstarter. The unit features four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, four eSATAp ports, two Mini Display Port ports and one DisplayPort/HDMI port. The X7A model was previously listed as a 3.2 GHz quad-core 64-bit, x86-based processor, integrated with up to 384 graphics shader cores, and 8GB of DDR3 RAM.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        Oh my, that is a lot of ports.

      • Beernut says:

        Based on that, it sounds like a slightly lower-clocked version of one of AMD’s trinity-based processors like the A10-5700 incorporating a HD7660D. This would be top-of-the-line, as far as integrated graphics are concerned, but rather low-end when compared to discrete solutions.

  2. pakoito says:

    Piston: powered by Steam. Gettin’ the chills here.

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      And the source editing tool is Hammer, yes yes. Gaben is a blacksmith, he likes putting these terms to use.

  3. AraxisHT says:

    A PC is:
    A versatile platform that is open in both hardware and software.

    • Gnoupi says:

      After 5 years of gaming laptop, I have learned to tone down the need for “open hardware”.
      Open software remains, hopefully.

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        PoulWrist says:

        I feel sad for you :-(

      • iniudan says:

        Really depend who made the laptop, Lenovo Thinkpad model T or W for example, you can basically change everything and they even have manual on how to remove and replace each piece. Trouble those are business laptop, so mostly made has to be easily repair on site and for work based application (so model with discrete video card are not model optimized for video game, but for professional application)

        But I admit it not really something you look for, has changing of laptop part, even if not manufacturer exclusive part, is quite expensive, outside of storage and RAM. But in the case of Thinkpad you got the advantage of multiple aftermarket part been available, just look on ebay, you will find ton of old model that no longer work, which are just there for part salvage, due to how easy they are to modify.

        But more of a solution for enthusiast and professional with lower hardware need then video games.

    • Rhuhuhuhu says:

      I would approach it from a user-interaction perspective:
      1. A computer to me is a device that gives me the freedom to command it’s hardware and software how I want to. I can consciously make a choice to use closed and restricted software (Windows, Steam, all games to a certain degree) but it’s my choice.
      2. A computer is a device that to me, is interacted with by a keyoard, mouse and optionally side systems like joysticks and controllers.

      As far as the project goes, I like the idea of boosting Linux, but it will be a long time before I will get this box, get it connected to the tv and play with a controller…. the heresy!

        • smoke.tetsu says:

          Needs to be wider. I’ve made myself a similar solution but attached a mousing surface on the side for extra width.

          • frightlever says:

            If you’re a bachelor you probably have an ironing board that’s not being used for anything.

        • db1331 says:

          That’s EXACTLY what I need. Do you know who makes that particular model?

        • Premium User Badge

          particlese says:

          Heh, nice! I’ve been using an Ikea cutting board (it came in a two-pack) topped with a large mousepad for my couch-based PC gaming. It’s a pretty small surface, but it works very well for me since I mouse sideways in front of the keyboard and with high enough sensitivity (smaller movements). More space might be nice, but this has been sufficiently comfortable for a couple of years now.

          Keyboard+mouse is how I usually interact with my PC, but I’m totally on-board with the notion that relative freedom of choice, whether or not it’s exercised by an individual, is what defines PC use. For me, the modularity and potential for partial upgrades and efficient repairs are also important — again, regardless of whether or not I actually make use of them. After a very quick read of Xi3′s (failed) Kickstarter page, it sounds like they’re of a similar mindset, so I hope this turns out well for them, assuming it is what it seems to be and Valve hasn’t gone weird all of a sudden.

        • Berzee says:

          As a further enhancement, if you get a nice Trackman m570 instead of an archaic and insufficient mouse, you can just use the armrest of your recliner for that, and put your keyboard on a smaller lap surface.

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            particlese says:

            Interesting…that certainly looks nicer and more functional than the Marble I played with about 15 years ago! My friend loved his, but I never took enough time to get used to it when he lent it to me. It was also susceptible to the Finger Cheese, and I don’t see how that could change, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as ball mice. Some of the computers I use at work still have those things, and I think I’m the only one who knows you can pick the rollers clean… :|

            Edit: Though I just realized I haven’t even had to clean the big honkin’ feet of my mice in ages, so either Logitech has finally solved that problem, or the Cheese is accumulating in my mousepads and will one day grow strong enough to leave its neoprene prisons and invade my apartment’s dust bunny colonies.

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      Shockeh says:

      Sorry to say, but this is just nonsense. A PC is a Personal Computer. That’s all it ever was. You have an attachment to a vision created by AMD, Intel, Nvidia and the rest who had a vested interest in a gated, elite community that saw themselves as ‘above’ the console gaming masses (even RPS at times have slipped into this, although usually with enough good humour to recognise it.)

      This, whether it succeeds or fails, is a fantastic thing because it blurs those boundaries that we didn’t want or need – The sooner we see these gated communities created by console platforms (PSN, XBL, all the rest) die a death, the better, and the only way it’ll happen in reality is if one of those environments adopts the possibility of being ‘open’ – If I had to pick one of the existing ones, Steam and Valve are our best bet, and even they might screw it up yet.

      Is the Gaming Singularity here? No. But this is potentially a great step toward it, if handled well.

      • Dana says:

        Yes, my x360 is a PC. Because it’s personal, and it computes. Let’s not get too dogmatic please.

        • lcy says:

          An Xbox? It’s personal – no doubt. It’s a computer, again, no problem.

          It’s not ‘yours’ though. It will only ever compute what someone other than you (in this case, Microsoft) has allowed it to compute. Just like an iPad.

          Admittedly, if you don’t care, that might seem a pointless distinction, but to those of us who use computers as tools in this way, it makes all the difference in the world. The ability to type in a unique program and then just run the damn thing, in the full knowledge that it will do whatever you tell it to, really is quite amazing.

          • Milky1985 says:

            “It’s not ‘yours’ though. It will only ever compute what someone other than you (in this case, Microsoft) has allowed it to compute. Just like an iPad.”

            Well firstly you can run your own stuff on there via XNA (if you pay) so you can run what you want in that sense.

            But you could also if you are being very pedantic apply the same logic to any computer, as you can’t run ANY command, you can only run what Intel or AMD or the chip architecture says you can run :P

            I personally didn’t class consoles as computers , as they used to be dedicated gaming machines, but now they are moving back towards my definition of computers due to them doing everything under the sun. I don’t think its the ability to run your specific code that says its a PC or not (in my eyes anyway), its the uses the item has available to it.

          • spedcor666 says:

            A games console is a specialised computer system intended to run video games. A PC is a general purpose computer system intended for a wide variety of tasks.

            An Xbox certainly isn’t a PC but whether this is more of a console or PC remains to be seen. That’ll depend on what we’ll be able to do with them.

            Although as Milky1985 mentions above, consoles are moving away from just running video games, I would still argue they’re not general purpose systems due to them being heavily focused towards entertainment services.

          • lcy says:

            “But you could also if you are being very pedantic apply the same logic to any computer, as you can’t run ANY command, you can only run what Intel or AMD or the chip architecture says you can run :P”

            Really? Are you telling me that there is a program that you can write which a PC cannot execute? If you’re talking about a deterministic program (i.e., one which does not involve the use of ‘actual’ random numbers), then you will find that, provided the program can fit into memory, this is simply not true. Indeed, even probabilistic programs can be run, provided you input enough random bits from a disc holding a store of such values. You can even, subject to space problems, which are significant, do the same with programs involving operations on quantum bits. Granted, you’re unlikely to live long enough to see any non-trivial program involving operations on qbits complete, but still. PC’s are, subject to memory space limitations, about as close to a Universal Turing Machine as we’re likely to get.

            “I personally didn’t class consoles as computers , as they used to be dedicated gaming machines, but now they are moving back towards my definition of computers due to them doing everything under the sun. I don’t think its the ability to run your specific code that says its a PC or not (in my eyes anyway), its the uses the item has available to it.”

            I didn’t mean to imply that consoles are not computers – they absolutely are. It’s just that you don’t own them, and can’t use them for all the varied tasks you can use a PC for, because you don’t have permission. It’s not a matter of power – my Xbox 360 is many times more powerful than my first PC. But I could use that PC to do entirely arbitrary and unexpected things with, limited only by my programming ability. I can’t say the same about my Xbox.

            What fills me with dread however, is the prospect that people might grow up and never have a ‘first PC’. I couldn’t have learnt to code without access to a machine that is capable of being programmed by it’s user. I’m not sure that such a situation is an improvement.

        • SuicideKing says:

          Your Xbox isn’t a PC, unless it’s running an x86 compliant CPU and follows the IBM PC spec. It’s not about being dogmatic, it’s about being accurate and clear. We’re not arguing what comprises a personal computer. IBM invented the PC, not the personal computer, or the concept of it. Even a calculator is a personal computer.

          The IBM PC was a brand name and specification, after all.

          • Jason Moyer says:

            Lots of PC’s don’t run x86 CPU’s. Hell, the term PC predates x86 architecture.

      • khamul says:

        I am interested in PC games. It just happens that I primarily play them on an Xbox/tablet these days, for reasons to do with time, comfort, money and spending at least some time in the day in the same room as my wife

        But RPS is still my primary source of games news – pretty much my only source of games news – because it writes about the kind of games that I am interested in. PC games.

        You can split a hair a million times to try to find the fragment that exactly specifies what makes a game a PC game and what doesn’t, but for me it comes down to a simple thing. For me, PC games are largely characterised by the respect they have for their audience.

        Absolutely going to be getting one of these.

        • Reefpirate says:

          Kind of in the same vein as you, what makes a ‘PC’ game for me is not necessarily a respect for the audience, although that is nice when it comes up. For me it’s simply the mouse and keyboard interface.

          I’ve always been puzzled why the consoles didn’t get mice and keyboard input devices… When I think of PC games I think of complex UIs that are only really manageable with a mouse. An RTS like Starcraft, or most strategy games in general with their large charts and many different menus all easily accessible with mouse and keyboard hotkeys. The mouse allows precision in the UI, but also in twitch-based games like flight sims, FPS or third-person shooters.

          They keyboard allows you to type really fast in MMOs and really any multiplayer game, but it also is like a very large gamepad with 100+ buttons on it. There is no analog input, but especially when you use key combinations with SHIFT and CTRL, etc., there is just so much versatility and less need to map all actions to a couple of ‘everything buttons’.

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        PoulWrist says:

        You are nonsense :-( I have been gaming on PCs since 1992 and even back then PC gaming was clearly different from consoles. You could mod your configuration, either via software tweaks or by changing hardware. Your games could be changed as well and that grew only more pronounced over time. Now people build custom cases and paint their stuff to make it even more a personal experience. That is what defines PC gaming. That it is wholly personal.

      • SuicideKing says:

        Sorry to say, that the “PC” as a brand/product was developed by IBM, aka the IBM PC.

        PC may be the short form for personal computer, but when you’re talking about the PC as a platform, it implies stuff running on x86 and which follows the ATX standard, in other words it is a derivative of the IBM PC specification.

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          FriendlyFire says:

          The problem with that narrow definition is that it would technically exclude Macs and laptops. Is anybody going to argue that either cannot be considered a PC when they can run the same software and work in nearly the same way?

          • iniudan says:

            Never opened an IBM or Lenovo thinkpad didn’t you ? Those still hold good value even after they are broken, justly because they are so easy to modify, thus perfect target for salvage.

  4. Addict7 says:

    I’m actually pretty worried

  5. FuriKuri says:

    I hope that, when this fails, it doesn’t do so much damage to Valve as to take all my Steam games with it.

    /Pessimist

    • AraxisHT says:

      I strongly suspect that Valve’s investment in this is mostly marketing and making sure their products work well with it. It doesn’t seem like that large an investment.

    • Phantoon says:

      I’m pretty sure Gabe owns a hat literally made out of money at this point. TF2 has been so insanely lucrative, on top of all their other insanely successful games, that they could probably buy a not-insignificant amount of Microsoft with it.

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      I’m not actually sure it’s that pessimistic to assume this thing is going to fail, to be honest.

      I am, however, putting money on the barrelhead that some people are going to fetishize it more than a little.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cross says:

        On the other hand, Gabe was quoted earlier saying he was surprised by the amount of people using Big Picture on their TVs. I won’t be using any of this, but whether it floats or sinks, i dunno.

    • Createx says:

      Does anyone know how much of a cut Valve gets from Steam sales? And how much of the market they hold nowadays? I’d still estimate 60% at least. That’s where the money comes from really, everything els is just gravvy. On a sidenote, it’s exactly why they can take their sweet time to develop any game – they have so much cash reserves that and fresh income that they can afford to polish a game till you can see your reflection on it.

      • Sire says:

        Steam takes 30%. Same as Apple I believe.

      • Xocrates says:

        It’s a pretty well known fact that Valve and other digital distribution platforms take about 30% of the sale price.

      • Createx says:

        Thanks, guess googling would have solved that after all. Well, Gabe doesn’t just have a head out of money, he has all the hats that ever existed in TF 2.

  6. Premium User Badge

    TheApologist says:

    This is great – I don’t want to buy a console in the next go round. So if I can have different games from my singular steam account in different rooms, syncing saves over the cloud, plus do PC media stuff on my telly, then tops.

    • Premium User Badge

      Henke says:

      My thoughts exactly. As someone who plays games on both console and PC the idea of one game library but two separate ways of enjoying the games appeals to me.

      The only drawback I see with this is that Steam might take out the competition. Monopolies aren’t good.

      • Phantoon says:

        Yes, but such a monopoly would be down to Gabe, and Gabe alone. Valve doesn’t answer to shareholders.

        • Premium User Badge

          Henke says:

          Um… is that supposed to set my mind at ease? Gabe seems like a good guy, but he’s still just a man, and in the words of an early 21st century philosopher by the name of West: “No one man should have all that power.”

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        TheApologist says:

        Yeah – that is an issue. However, the platform is presumably remaining PC open. Nothing to stop other shops launching that are compatible with the hardware?

      • Createx says:

        EDIT: Oh shit, this turned out long. Sorry :P

        TL;DR:
        Valve has a good name and doesn’t want to lose it, and they can afford to allow competition on the Steambox.

        I think Valve is heavily interested in keeping their good image. They are pretty much the only good player that a majority of gamers sees as good.
        They have DRM, but it’s fairly unobstructive and at this point, most people see Steam not as DRM, but as their tool for keeping tracks of their games, socializing etc… Plus, you can play most games with Steamworks without an internet connection.
        The Mod Community loves Valve, plain and simple. They are very open about their engine, release their tools and actively support Mods (Garry’s Mod). They pick up modders and let them make big games (IceFrog, Portal, Alien Swarm…) I personally hold high Valve in high esteem for how they handled Black Mesa. Most companies would have shut that down, probably to release the game in HD themselves later, or at least remove the name or similiarities. Valve only intervened to ASK them to remove “Source” in the name (ok, things could have gone nasty if they didn’t). That is pretty justifiable since quite a number of real Valve games have Source in their name.
        Lastly, every single game they’ve made is very good. There are simply no bad Valve games. Some are dated today, but were some of the best back in the day, but for example Half-Life 2 is still very, very good today, 8 years later. L4D2 is still going very strong, Portal 2 was incredible and TF 2 speaks for itself. Anything else was pretty damn good, too.
        Well, Valve has built up this good name over years and years, they do not want to lose it.
        Also, they can easily afford to allow competition. With the size of most people’s gaming library on Steam, most people won’t change to another service, simply out of convenience. I’m not even sure they’d be allowed to close the Steam Box down, look at the monopoly cases against Internet Explorer and Media Player with Microsoft back in the days. Probably not true for consoles since there is competition, Microsoft only had to remove IE and MP since they had 95% market share back then.

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          phuzz says:

          Minor pedantic note:
          Ricochet wasn’t bad, but I don’t think many people would say it was a good game.

          • Createx says:

            Probably right. Haven’t played it, but it seems to be forgotten for a reason. Valve makes sure nobody ever remembers it evidently.

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      Stellar Duck says:

      But you can do that now. You don’t need to throw money at this box to do something like that.

      • Grey Ganado says:

        I’ll gladly throw my money at this so I don’t have to do it myself.

        • plugmonkey says:

          I was about to say the same thing. Not for me (I do do that already) but for millions of other users who can’t be arsed sourcing parts and bolting them together, this could be perfect.

          I think it’ll take off too. My prediction is that one of Playstation and Xbox won’t survive the next generation.

          That, in itself, is gargantually enormous.

        • frightlever says:

          You can buy an Alienware X51 right now which is about the size of a console. You’ll pay a premium for it, obviously.

          (If I was a betting man I’d say Sony are more likely to bow out that Microsoft. One is still making shedloads of money and one is a struggling Japanese consumer giant.)

          • plugmonkey says:

            Me too. Which would leave Microsoft in the unusual position of having invested zillions in creating a box to go in peoples’ living rooms, only to find it in competition with their own forgotten home computers – like a returning wayward stepchild out on parole.

            Had they known ahead of time that the whole world was going to replace their TVs with giant computer monitors, I wonder if they’d have done that differently.

            So, what OS is this Steambox going to be running? Not Linux, surely, which would kill it deader than dead on birth.

          • InternetBatman says:

            Is MS making shedloads of money? They spent half a billion on their kinect marketing campaign. The PS3 managed to switch the market to Blu-rays. I think both sides have ancillary goals that are more profitable than the systems themselves, so neither will probably give up the market that easy.

            Steambox will probably be running Linux. Why should it be harder to get publishers on board with that than a completely separate OS/API. The manufacturers are certainly not paying MS for every system they sell, moving people to windows 8, and taking the performance hit a full desktop OS brings.

      • Premium User Badge

        Henke says:

        Yes but this makes it convenient. So far the solution for living room PC gaming seems to be either lugging your PC into your living room or other complicated solutions. My videocard has DVI as well, not HDMI so a long HDMI cable won’t do.

        But if you have some convenitent setup in mind, please speak up! If I could get this thing going without having to buy a SteamBox, even better.

        • RodHope says:

          DVI to HDMI converter (£10 ish) and a wireless keyboard and mouse should sort you out. You’ll need to use PC speakers, but buying a decent set will still prolly end up cheaper

          • plugmonkey says:

            Re: speakers

            If he has a look at the back of his telly, he might find one of his HDMI ports has phono plugs. One of mine does. There’s also a PC monitor port with phono plugs on mine that would have worked, had I not thought “Sod it” and bought a new card instead.

            Edited for terminology,

          • Premium User Badge

            Henke says:

            Cheers guys! Will look into the converter thing. Still plenty of questionmarks ofcourse. I’d need a 10 meter cable to run from my PC to TV, perhaps the same with soundcable. And having to plug in the speakers and probably switch primary viewport from montor to TV every time will of course be a hassle as well. And then ofcourse there’s the matter of cables strewn across half my appartment.

            The SteamBox just looks so tidy and convenient in comparison. Will wait out it’s release to see reviews and user feedback before making any big decisions.

          • LukeNukem says:

            I just set my graphics card to mirror output to both my TV and monitor, then if I want to game on my TV, I switch off the monitor and just change the source on my TV to the correct HDMI source.

        • EvilHungarian says:

          How about a wireless HDMI transmitter? They are a bit spendy and you’d still need something for the sound, since you only have DVI output but it might be a viable option if you decide to upgrade your card and/or the price of the transmitters goes down.

      • Premium User Badge

        TheApologist says:

        Isn’t that precisely the point, though? This has much of the convenience of consoles, but the PC platform remains open so people who want different hardware, different distribution etc. can do just that.

        This holds open the prospect of a supportive relationship between mass convenience buying and the enthusiast audience, instead of the divisive multi-platform situation we have with consoles. That’s massive.

  7. FrostySprite says:

    I hope we won’t see exclusive content for the Steam Box. I doubt there’ll be full games exclusive of course but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see things like small bonuses for buying x game on the Steam Box.

    • DrHeaton says:

      If anything they may be Steam exclusives (on both PC and Steam console) for a short period of time similar to how the Xbox seems to get exclusive DLCs for the likes of Skyrim.

      My money is on Half Life 3 as a ‘Steam exclusive’ launch title for at least a few months before the consoles get it.

      • Phantoon says:

        Or the consoles just plain won’t be powerful enough to run it, and so they won’t get the game at all.

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      AmateurScience says:

      If there is exclusivity I imagine it will be exclusive to Steam – like Skyrim &c – rather than any particular hardware. Or at least I bloody hope it isn’t.

      Edit: Basically what DrHeaton said :)

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      To be frank, at least in the early stages of things, consoles live and die by their exclusives. So we’ll see how that goes.

    • InternetBatman says:

      The steambox already has a ton of exclusives other consoles don’t get. Think of all the HIB games that aren’t on consoles, games like Aquaria. This system probably has starting access to a larger library than most, and if they beef up wine, maybe more than most consoles get in their lifetimes.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      It’s a PC running Steam in Big Picture mode. How the fuck do you have an ‘exclusive’ for that?

      • InternetBatman says:

        Exclusive compared to other consoles. This is aimed at console gamers.

  8. memorianx says:

    I hope this steam box wont just be another console, but actually be a pc.
    To me pc gaming is all about gaming on a system that isnt just a game system, but also a place where you can work and then get distracted by games.

    • wu wei says:

      I’m sure it’ll be extensible enough, but why does it have to satisfy _every_ need? It’s not like you’re starved for choice in the PC market right now. Why not let it just be a game-focused piece of hardware?

  9. Richie Shoemaker says:

    Piston Vs Pi – let battle commence!

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      beekay says:

      Oh please, the Piston is all that and then some.

      Alternatively, the Pi’s looking like a cut-down version of this.

      I don’t even think these jokes are bad enough to groan at, they just give me a weird gnawing feeling in my gut, like I saw a cat get run over.

  10. JoeGuy says:

    So some of the dilemma’s then are:
    - Will it support our existing library through compatibility emulation voodoo or is it retroactively adding support to some games if it takes off and then most future releases?
    - Will the system be upgradable at a reasonable price and from 3rd party vendors?
    - Will it be open source for Apps, Homebrew, Mods, Emulating Old School games etc.
    - Will PC gaming take a more staggered approach to graphical advancement if we have a larger but more controlled PC enviroment?
    - And… Will Half-Life 3 come bundled if I agree to buy one?

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      Have you even read the article or did you just see a picture & headline hit the “Opinon, Away!” button reflexively?

      - Will it be open source for Apps, Homebrew, Mods, Emulating Old School games etc.

      That doesn’t even make sense.

      • JoeGuy says:

        The article wasn’t that long when I typed that tbh and it is a Linux based OS, what’s the point of a mini-gaming PC if you can’t do those things? And the article most definitely didn’t answer those questions qhwn I typed it. Did you read the comment and let the rude person inside you take over and reply to me or did you use your brain to let you be reasonable before you replied?

  11. Engonge says:

    I don’t know what it does but I am willing to pay 149$ for it.

    • caddyB says:

      Me too. Since I don’t have any console boxes anyway, this might be a good reason to keep that TV around.

  12. Hoaxfish says:

    What I like:
    1. Pre-built PC: Hopefully Valve understand what is and isn’t needed to make this a good machine.
    2. Hopefully it will prompt some serious consideration about Linux as a home PC.
    3. Hopefully it’ll set a standard as “people have this” so that Devs can build for that, rather than build for decade old consoles and then porting badly onto modern PC systems.

    What I don’t like:
    1. Linux probably won’t be entirely compatible with most of my current Steam library, let alone 3rd-parties that will still target Windows (with Mac 2nd, and Linux 3rd if at all). Even with Wine, I imagine most will run into hiccups.
    2. No price yet.
    3. I’m hoping Valve produce regular iterations (like iphone/nexus devices), otherwise it’ll just be another “console” spec holding back games/technology.

    What keeps me Windows PC gaming? A long legacy of still playable games, emulated games, that I can write a letter (do work), send an email, pretend I can code games, and browse the internet from the same machine (i.e. no cost to buy a different machine, occupies the same space in my limited space)

    • AraxisHT says:

      It’s supposed to have modular hardware so they can release upgrades to individual components as needed.

      • Premium User Badge

        Cross says:

        Even so, i think it might be healthy for PC gaming to have a sort of “baseline” PC that you will want to have your game running well on.

  13. mrmalodor says:

    I don’t see how this is good at all. These little boxes are nothing but cheaply made low-end PCs that will only be good for the simplest casual games and basic functions. You might as well get a real PC or a real console.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      You don’t know what the spec is.

      • mrmalodor says:

        I’ll bet you 100 bucks that it will be at least 2 times less powerful than my current ~3 year old PC.

    • pakoito says:

      Small phone specs -> UE3 games, 4k video, multiscreen, more powerful than a midrange 5yo PC and on-par with sub $300 laptops. This is 5 times the size.

    • Phantoon says:

      What is a microchip? A miserable pile of bits.

    • Createx says:

      The important thing is that just like consoles, this will have one hardware configuration. That means as a dev, you can optimize your game for 3-4 configs instead of 4 bazillion like you have to do for a proper PC. Why do you think consoles can put out those graphics, looking at their measly hardware?

      • mrmalodor says:

        One hardware configuration = no choice = bad for the consumer.

        • Premium User Badge

          jezcentral says:

          Not in every way. A fixed hardware config means coding to the metal will be viable. That’s a big potential boost right there, that gives value for money to the customer, especially since it won’t ever have to push more pixels than 1920×1080.

          This probably won’t be that attractive to the likes of me and you, especially if, like me, you have a wife that wouldn’t let you play games on the main TV, “as other people will want to use it” However, I can see a lot of people who would think this is the bee’s knees.

  14. jyggen says:

    The Steam Box? Thought we agreed on GabeCube :(

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I had not agreed on any such thing… but only because I hadn’t seen a discussion, otherwise GabeCube would have my full support. Which it now does

  15. Bootsy81 says:

    If it’s not in a dark, musty bedroom it’s not PC gaming. Also, where will I put my keyboard and mouse? My desk isn’t in my living room, facing my TV. This is very, very silly.

    • Hyomoto says:

      I’m glad someone said this, I was getting worried reading the comments. The games that have full controller support are typically console ports, beyond those are we supposed to play Baldur’s Gate on our TV? I guess its for people who want to play PC games but can’t afford a monitor.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Yet they can afford to buy a t.v. set? That argument makes no sense.

    • Premium User Badge

      FriendlyFire says:

      PC gaming isn’t restricted to mouse and keyboard. One of the PC’s great strengths is not having one specific input method, it’s having all possible input methods.

  16. rustybroomhandle says:

    What I am curious about is the software strategy more than the hardware. Who’s going to port games to it? So far most of the available games are smallish indie titles, albeit good ones.

    Any ‘AAA’ stuff heading its way?

  17. The Dark One says:

    I don’t think Valve is putting all their eggs in this pistony basket. The AMD chip in this thing can do modern games on low settings at 1080p, but not much else. The big idea here is that they know exactly which graphics chip is on it and can focus their collaborative open source driver efforts to bring performance parity for both their games AND other Linux titles on Steam for it. They can then push from there to iron out issues with a wider variety of cards, and then (hopefully) prove to developers that they don’t need Windows to sell PC games.

  18. Cooper says:

    A PC in a small box connected to a TV instead of a monitor and hooked up with gamepads is still a PC. Even if what is inside consoles is basically PC hardware nowadays, a console experience remains very different from a PC one. Sure the whole “at a desk” vs “on your sofa” dichotomy is going. But that was never the crux of the difference.

    A PC is open. I can format my hard-drive and put whatever the hell I want on it. I can pull bits out of it and plug other bits into it.
    No company has any ability to determine what I can do with whatever I put in a metal box and call my PC.

    Anything you do on a console is something that has been permitted by the company that produces the console.

    The moment a PC ships with an OS that locks you into an “app store” and only installs permitted software and ceases to function on a hardware level if you try to remove that OS / those limits. Then PCs will be consoles.

    I fully expect the new Steambox will be something I can wipe clean and turn into my new HTPC. I’ve been meaning to build a new one for a while now.

  19. Radiant says:

    Ugh a pc game box on the tv. How limiting.

    I can sit in a room no bigger than Alec Meer’s tiny wank station and the possibilities for what I can do and play or play and do, at the same time, are endless.

    Great way to take everything that makes pc games remarkable and throw most of it in the bin.

    • Premium User Badge

      AmateurScience says:

      Why is this any different?

    • Premium User Badge

      Henke says:

      You seem to be under the impression that this would be a replacement for a PC, it’s not. It’s a replacement for an XBox or Playstation. If you don’t wanna play games in your living room then you’re not the target audience.

      • Premium User Badge

        Stellar Duck says:

        But say I want to play in my living room (I actually do so when I fancy), why would I need to buy this?

        • plugmonkey says:

          You wouldn’t need to, but you might want to as a fairly sensible alternative to a console. You’ll have access to a large library of cheaper games, and it should also be a more open and versatile media box too.

      • Radiant says:

        I already have a large tv in the room I have my pc in.
        One of the points I was making was that it limits what is possible for pc games.

        A box of this type is not progressive.

        Say a developer has an idea to integrate live game streaming [so people can watch and chat to you whilst you play LoL or Starcraft style] or to integrate in game music to a spotify playlist or innovate their games to involve websites, google maps, word, whatever fantastic things a pc is capable of.

        Even something as simple as a dual monitor game.

        It’s limiting the scope of pc games to that of the current generation of console games.

        • Premium User Badge

          jezcentral says:

          I don’t see how having an extra option “limits” anything.

          In fact, I thought the opposite was true….

    • f1x says:

      I dont see why this is so much of a problem for some people

      PCs remain the same, not like all the companys are going to suddenly stop making PC hardware and only make freaking Steam boxes

      This is just a new entertaiment device as much as a new console, laptop, ipad, whatever is, nobody is forcing you to buy it or anything

  20. derella says:

    -Compatibility.
    -Specs.
    -Price.

    That’s all.

    • Premium User Badge

      All is Well says:

      Well, I don’t know about the other two, but as far as pricing goes:
      “Xi3 wouldn’t discuss price for Piston, but commented that the Steam Box is based on its “performance level” X7A offering, which is priced at $999. Xi3 declined to comment on what would differentiate Piston hardware-wise from a standard X7A”
      (from Polygon’s article found here)

      • f1x says:

        999 seems a bit too much,
        but then I’m seeing they are really marketing it as a PC for the living room… dont know what to think at the moment

  21. lizzardborn says:

    PC gaming – any device on which I can play whatever I want, am able to run code that I approve and have root access and not play the games somebody else approved for me.

    PC is the device I play the games the way i want, and not the way somebody else said is the only possible way.

    That is in an essence. The input and output devices may vary a lot, as can the internals and the horsepower. But for me PC gaming is an ideology.

    • asshibbitty says:

      What if you want to play a game that’s not available on PC?

      • lizzardborn says:

        Well .. the RPS article asked about what is PC. But usually skip those. Very few of the exclusives are really good. And with the insane backlog in steam and gog that I have I can afford to wait.

        • asshibbitty says:

          In the end it’s still someone else who’s deciding what you can and can’t play. On lots of levels.

          • Premium User Badge

            Harlander says:

            The important difference is that between “we’re not going to make this work on your platform” and “we’re not going to allow this to be brought to our platform”

          • Premium User Badge

            AmateurScience says:

            The difference is that if I want to, and have the aptitude, I can code an emulator that will let me play those games on my PC. Or I can download one that some other enterprising soul has created.

          • asshibbitty says:

            I’ve a DVD with a bunch of emulators and roms that I used to play on my ps2. e. and actually I have a mame emulator on this iPad too

    • uh20 says:

      This is going to be a console, and yea, probably wont be as freely editable, no ones going to talk about it from here on out i assume.

      But hey, you already lose some freedom with microsoft windows. eh, eh, say no more, say no more.

  22. Ted_Breakfast says:

    Man, I just spent a load of money building a PC that is hooked up to my TV. Someone tell me it was worth it so I don’t feel bad. It’s still better to have a proper open PC right?

    • iainl says:

      I don’t know what the specs were on the machine you built, but this thing doesn’t look big enough to get a mid-high-end GPU, nor will run on 20 Watts.

      • Ted_Breakfast says:

        Thanks for reassuring me :) . Yeah, I guess given the size of it, there are going to be obvious limits. (I have an HD 6870 for reference)

    • Premium User Badge

      Fede says:

      Right!

    • Premium User Badge

      Monchberter says:

      My HTPC is running a low end DX11 card and an ancient Q6600 processor.

      Skyrim and Far Cry 3 in 1080p? No problem.

      I wouldn’t worry.

  23. lordcooper says:

    As long as I can install whatever I want and games are still moddable, I’m happy. Can’t say I’m entirely convinced that this is a thing wot I need in my life, but I’m keeping both eyes and mind open.

  24. Premium User Badge

    Fede says:

    Seems nice.

    But… a grapefruit?! From the size of the USB ports I’d say it’s approx 20cm. Guess they went a little bit OGM heavy then :p

    My laptop is 25cm though. So this thing isn’t that small and might not be more practical than a laptop, especially because of its bizzare almost cubical shape.

  25. asshibbitty says:

    That’s an odd color choice. Kind of all around ugly, won’t matter if I can just hide it behind the tv I guess.

  26. Premium User Badge

    RaveTurned says:

    At last, PC developers will have a common target hardware spec to work towards for their games! Well, controller-based ones anyway.

    Also it’ll probably only be a matter of days after launch until someone gets custom distros running on this thing. If they do well and get mass produced, suddenly we have a common, moderately cheap yet powerful PC spec for clustering and other shenanigans.

  27. rustybroomhandle says:

    As far as I know, the unit shown in the picture is not the actual Steam device, just of the current hardware from Xi3.

    • asshibbitty says:

      Not encouraging. . With the way tv boxes are evolving I won’t be surprised if the final is starfish-shaped and shoots high-powered lasers onto the ceiling at random times.

  28. Shadowcat says:

    Poll: Would you rather have a Wii, or get Piston?

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      You win comment of the year.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        That is a very early judgement call. I mean don’t get me wrong, definitely a contender; could go all the way. But we’ll see come the annual RPS Comments of the Year awards and tea & biscuits ceremony.

  29. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    For me PC is all about the user defining the experience. A console is a device where the manufacturer is in control of the experience: they make the dashboard they vet the games and lock down the content – I’m compelled to interact within the parameters set by the console manufacturer and the game developers.

    On a PC – broadly – if I don’t like something, I can change it, either by getting under the hood and having a tinker or (far more likely) finding a mod or guide online that will help me define my own user experience. If a game is struggling with framerate I can change some settings to improve things, if it’s looking a bit dated I can get or make higher res textures, even if I don’t like a rule or system in a game, it’s (sometimes) possible to change that too. That’s what PC gaming is to me, and I can’t see any reason why this wee box can’t fit into that paradigm.

  30. wodin says:

    How come just a decent graphics card is bigger than this..

    • olemars says:

      A decent graphics card is designed to fit in a PCIe slot in a case. It doesn’t actually need to be in that shape.

  31. guygodbois00 says:

    “Performance version” at 999$? Call you when my capital accumulation phase is over, in like, 30 -40 years.

  32. paulapuffmutter says:

    This product is really out of bounds!
    The PC will remain the PC, as Desktop, as Laptop even as Tablet, if you want. It will remain giving you the handle over it and most important -I hope so- installing Steam and play your games. The only advantage is the size, ok. If it would be possible to kill the publisher rebel scum opinion developing console exclusive games like Gears of War by this ‘thing’ then you have the benefit.

  33. RodHope says:

    Is this not a console? Will RPS still cover it?

  34. memorianx says:

    The box needs an on and reset button

  35. Desmolas says:

    As far as i’m concerned, this is fixed hardware on a fixed platform with a fixed set of games.

    Its a console.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Yup. And let’s place bets on whether this will require a new account with Steam, therefore locking me out of playing games from my existing account’s library.

      This thing is gonna fail so hard if that’s the case. Hell, I have a feeling it’s going to fail hard regardless — very few PC owners are going to be interested in it, and even fewer console owners are going to be aware of it.

    • Premium User Badge

      FriendlyFire says:

      It’s modular hardware with a preinstalled software suite. Just like with a computer, if you’re not happy with the software, install your own.

      Try again.

  36. jellydonut says:

    I feel like any ‘damage’ this kind of campaign into the living room would have done, has already been done by ‘casual games’.

    That is to say, the market is now divided into casual and niche games, with ‘our’ games being the niche. Might as well take advantage of the extra dough it’ll bring.

    I also really like this form factor, it’s no longer like those Shuttle PCs which were small but not small enough to actually have a purpose. I can bring this thing with me in my bag overseas when I’m working offshore and plug it into the TV in my living space to play games and do stuff a real computer lets you do, instead of buying an overly expensive laptop.

  37. Bobka says:

    A PC is:

    Something that can support all the various input formats we know of, particularly the highly precise and complex mouse and keyboard combination (but also gamepads, touchscreens, joysticks, etc.), thus allowing for more varied and complex gameplay.

    Something that allows users to get down and dirty with their games’ files, to create and install games themselves, to hack around and mod their games. It is equally a developer’s and a user’s device.

    UberPowerful Hardware for teh grafix is a secondary concern IMO.

    The most important thing about this box is that it actually be a PC from a developer’s perspective, i.e. games don’t need to be “ported” between this and real PCs – in other words, that it doesn’t draw developer talent away from PC-compatible games, and doesn’t make life hard on indies making games for it. It’s a disgusting shame that we, as an industry, produce products that need to be significantly rewritten for every single different platform. Second most important is that players can muck around in the files, side-load games, etc. Which, if it is indeed a proper PC, is probably the case.

  38. paulapuffmutter says:

    Sounds silly: Game XYZ – Will come early 2014 for PC, XBox, Ps3/4/5, SteamBox

    Developers have to cover linux development now

  39. MOKKA says:

    Are there any information about whether or not you’re also going to be able to install games from other services/sources? Because if not, I don’t see any difference between this thing and a regular console.

    I’m also a little bit concerned that this might also be an attempt to create a ‘walled garden’ but instead of you using the garden from Apple, Google or Microsoft, you go into the garden from Valve. I don’t think that this is very consumer-friendly, but most people don’t seem to care about that, since walled gardens usually bring more convinience and less confusion.

    I can’t say what ‘PC gaming’ is, or what PCs are, I can however say why I chose a PC as my main gaming plattform. It’s because I can use it for different things besides gaming and I have complete control over what kinds of software I use.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      This is also a concern for me. Valve have become more and more like Apple over the years, what with vague definitions of “ownership” and rights to all those exclusive perks having to do with Steamworks titles. It’s becoming more difficult to find new games these days sold through Steam that will actually run without the Steam client chugging away in the background.

      The big question for me is: will we be allowed to migrate an existing Steam account to the Piston, or are we going to have to create a new one? They’d obviously be forced to restrict certain titles given hardware and software compatibility issues with the box, but I’d at least like the option to play games from my current library. I honestly don’t think that’s going to happen.

      • Premium User Badge

        darkChozo says:

        It seems reaaaaly unlikely that you’ll have to make a new Steam account for Piston, both because it would be an idiot move on Valve’s part and because multiplatform support on Steam is already done on the same account across platforms. If I can play Steam games on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux on one purchase, it stands to reason that those same games would work on Piston as well.

  40. Shabla says:

    For me PC gaming equals mouse & keyboard and modding. I hope that box makes more devs bring back the focus on PCs, but I don’t see it working if it’s priced anything over 350$…

  41. caddyB says:

    It’s all nice but I have one question: Will it blend?

  42. Premium User Badge

    Monchberter says:

    Die hard PC Gamers – IT’S NOT FOR YOU.

    This is completely pitched at current console gamers who are anticipating the next Xbox / PS. Why else announce it at this time? We’re at a critical juncture in the hardware cycle.

    Frankly I don’t much care if you want to sit in a darkened bedroom at a desk, this has the opportunity to completely break down barriers.

    Although the remaining barrier is still the one between pad users and mouse and keys, and that’s a wall noone really wants removed. If anything, for this to work, Valve need to get a ‘filter by input’ function working within Steam to prevent pad players getting totally dominated by mouse and keys players online.

  43. darkmouse20001 says:

    For me PC gaming is very definitely sitting at me desk in front of my monster pc with my G27 plugged in, joystick and throttle within easy reach, homemade USB button box mounted just so and keyboard and mouse within easy reach.

    With this massive box I can I can play racing sims and games with physics and graphics that consoles can only dream of, pilot a modern fighter, take over the world whilst stroking my non-existent beard of knowledge and if things get really bad even do some work.

    I can plug my guitar in to record and endlessly tweak my shit ideas. I can design a new bathroom and then render it in 3D to see exactly what it’ll look like. I can tinker to my hearts delight, and hawking back to the glory days that hopefully things like star citizen will give me, I can stick in more hardware when I want things to look absolutely outstanding,

    I don’t want a small, shit computer in the living room. Admittedly, they have a place – I have a ps3 for wipeout, rocksmith, and film streaming – but it can never replace my pc.

    • Premium User Badge

      All is Well says:

      I don’t think this will compete in the desktop PC market at all, so you needn’t worry about it replacing your PC. Your PS3 is the one who should worry, since it will probably lose market shares to this little thing.

    • Premium User Badge

      FriendlyFire says:

      And to you and all people who think like you: you are not the target audience, stop thinking as if the whole world revolved around you.

      This thing is a way of broadening the PC’s audience and marketshare against the console toys. If it fails, Valve will keep doing what it used to do. If it succeeds, we’ll get more games on PC, faster, with better support, and all running on Linux instead of Windows.

      I cannot even fathom how someone can see this as a bad thing.

  44. Zhou says:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don’t see an hdmi connection on that box, which seems like an A grade fuckup to me, if the intention is to connect these things to tvs. Yes, you can adapt a DVI to HDMI, but I was of the impression that sound wouldn’t carry through an adapter.

  45. Dave L. says:

    It looks like this may be based on the Xi3 K7A that they tried to kickstart previously. Graphics chip probably a Radeon 8790M or a variant (that was the first hit I got when googling ’384 shader cores’).

    If Valve is going to be putting some sort of SteamOS on it they’ll probably sell it at a loss and make up the difference with hat sales, but probably not less than 500 US.

    Engadget has a hands-on of the box, but no actual specs or price.

  46. frightlever says:

    If they bundle a, say, 20% discount for a year off all games bought off Steam then it probably wouldn’t pay me not to get one. Sigh.

  47. MiloticMaster says:

    Since they keep saying ‘integrated system’, Im really hoping this is some kind of GPU/CPU addon that will bump up the performance of a regular PC to gaming PC standards, instead of being its own ‘standalone’ system, because then it will definitely become a console. I dont really see the point in a PC console-like thing when most games come out on consoles anyhow.
    The main issue is how they are going to lock this ‘Steam Box/Piston’ to Steam products. So I guess they’re going to only allow Steam software to be downloaded/run on it? Which pretty much makes it a console if it limits software being used on it. Anyway we’re PC gamers; We’ll eventually strip it down for hardware (or hack it like every other console) sooner or later. As long as its got good specs and its cheap, might just buy this and a notebook.
    And finally about the whole living room vs. desk thing? Please. Its got USB ports and an HDMI port. Plug in your mouse/keyboard via USB and your monitor via HDMI and stop whining.

  48. Rossi says:

    Hmm, I’m thinking…

    This could be a ‘limited’ spec PC/Mediabox which is capable of running GabeCube compatible games but for more demanding games it allows you to stream your uber triple AAA titles from your monster PC to the GabeCube via the network so you can play them on the big TV.

    Plus all the media centre gubbins too.

    Makes sense to me…

  49. Stevostin says:

    PC Gaming to me is mouse + keybord. Oh, and ok, it’s open, customizable, etc. It’s a platform that can play a game with an UI so retarded it’s absolutely impossible to play it (Far Cry 3) into a really pleasant game.

    Oh and also, sitting alone on my computer, for better & worse.

    I don’t get the steam box thing. Linux boot, fine, but nearly all games are windows. Is that for future game only ?

  50. int says:

    I see it as a gateway drug into PC gaming for console huggers.