Piston Gets P-ssed On By Valve

By Alec Meer on March 12th, 2013 at 4:30 pm.

because it sounds like 'piss' haha ha

Am I allowed to swear in headlines? Some guy might complain that his four-year-old daughter reads PC gaming blogs and now he’s going to report us to David Cameron. I’m so sorry, that guy. Anyway, I’ve taken the coward’s route. I can only pray that you somehow manage to decode my intricate encryption and ascertain what I meant to say.

You know the Xi3 Piston $1000 gaming PC that was supposed to be the vanguard of the Valve Steambox console-concept? Nuh-uh. Valve have revealed they’ve nothing whatsoever to do with it after all. A name that sounds a bit rude might be the least of this thing’s problems now.

After a few weeks of making hay with the association/presumption that this thing was somehow Valve-endorsed, this is probably not the kind of thing Piston manufacturer Xi3 wanted to be made public so hot on the heels of their announcement that the Piston will cost a troubling $1000. “Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year, but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs,” Valve’s communications man Doug Lombardi told an inquisitive Eurogamer this morning. Wuh-oh.

This is probably why the thing’s called the Valve-evoking ‘Piston’ rather than something with Steam in the title. More importantly, it leaves some hope that the Steambox proper will be rather more affordable. If Valve, and/or PC gaming, wants to give consoles a fright in terms of living room dominance, this thing really needs to come in under $500, I reckon. (I reckon a lot of things. (Most of them dead wrong.))

If you still want to buy a Piston, get thee here. I think I’ll stick with my big desktop PC, the 10 metre HDMI cable and wireless keyboard and mouse for my big-screen gaming, thanks. I’m lying, I can’t be bothered with that any more. I am big enough and ugly enough to admit that hunching in front of a monitor on a knackered office chair is my past, present and future.

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96 Comments »

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  1. breakfastcereal says:

    That thing is just awful. There’s no way to justify the price.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      Awful? For me looks like a neat, tiny PC for gaming. Nothing superb, but small size and (by far) wider spectrum of games and activities available easily make up for any flaws.

      • onsamyj says:

        You know what type of videocard is in it, right?

        • Premium User Badge

          Cinek says:

          No I actually: Don’t. I just dig it up – seems like it’s Radeon 7000-series. That can’t be true… it’s a GPU series from 2001…

          • paddymaxson says:

            I imagine it’s a Radeon HD 7000 series, their most recent series.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            It is not, no. It is an onboard chipset. Mobility chipsets are frequently outperformed by 3-5 year old hardware.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            Not to be pedantic, but it’s not exactly an onboard GPU. It’s using an AMD APU chip, which has both the CPU and GPU on the same die. It’s a minor difference, but it’s a difference.

            The GPU is the HD 7660G, which is directly comparable to AMD’s line of laptop GPUs. The 7660 isn’t the most blazing thing out there, but it runs pretty damn well and is certainly capable of replicating, if not outright beating, current console performance.

      • povu says:

        I don’t know if the specs are final yet, but so far it sounds like it is very weak. As in, running most titles of this/last year at low-medium’ish settings only. Those are some benchmark results of similar hardware I heard. Could be way off, naturally.

      • ScubaMonster says:

        You are positively nuts. There is no justification for that price tag, the specs alone prove that.

        • Vorphalack says:

          Indeed. You can build a better tower PC for about half the list price. They even have the nerve to charge you $340 extra to DOUBLE the storage space to 256GB, which is a rip off even for an SSD. With the basic 128GB package I reckon I could fit maybe 3-4 of my most played steam games on the ”Piston”. Convenience my arse.

        • Snargelfargen says:

          Well some gamers do make downright crazy decisions when it comes to hardware purchases, so there is a precedent. The Piston seems quite reasonably priced compared to the Titan gpu (also $1000!) or the i7 3960 ($1200!).

          • breakfastcereal says:

            The difference is, that Titan and 3960 can run Crysis.

          • Premium User Badge

            FriendlyFire says:

            Those two items actually give you a benefit though. The Piston is a huge markup for… a smaller box.

          • Snargelfargen says:

            The Piston could be a pretty rad media/arcade center when hidden behind a wall-mounted flat-panel. It’s a ludicrously expensive solution to a very specific problem, which makes it very good company for the Titan!

        • stupid_mcgee says:

          You’re paying for the R&D and the deployment of the form-factor, not just the parts. Sure, you can build a desktop for a fraction of the price. But you’d still have a desktop. The pricing is because of the special form-factor and what they had to do to get it to be so small.

      • Smarag says:

        What? Probably the most important thing about a gaming PC is the GPU. The GPU of that thing is pure shit for the price you pay.

    • Shivoa says:

      Considering the battery, screen, and significantly lower price of a laptop with the same specs (A10-4600M, even upgrading with an SSD in place of the cheap 2.5″ drive you’ll likely get with such a modest machine by default) it seems a bad plan to charge such a huge premium for the innovative (or at least uncommon) design.

      I’m glad Valve have decided to make it very clear they are not associated with this product as it doesn’t do justice to high end PC gaming (competing with future consoles, today) or the cheap and surprisingly capable low end that is getting there with competing with the console generation being retired (iGPUs aren’t great but they aren’t exactly terrible when compared to those 7 year old consoles and with $200 chips then the total cost of a PC based on one can be made very affordable, if not quite to the level of a console*).

      * Of course a PC is an open system so you can run any code and so do so many things and connect any peripheral you like so this adds value vs the closed competition.

      • ScubaMonster says:

        Yeah it’s a good thing they distanced themselves from this product. If not, they would have appeared completely delusional and a laughing stock.

    • Apocalypse says:

      It can be mounted to the vesa mount of your monitor, so you essential get an 1400$-1600$ 30″ all-in-one PC with that thing.

      Sounds still overpriced to me, but not as ridiculous as it first seems.

    • Mctittles says:

      Maybe Valve was just working a deal with them to sell this thing for $1000 so whatever their box costs will look relatively nice next to that.

  2. roryok says:

    hunching in front of a monitor on a knackered office chair is my past, present and future.

    AMEN

    • brulleks says:

      I too will forever pray at the heavenly altar of lumbago.

    • Simon Hawthorne says:

      You really need to buy a desk for your monitor.

    • Arkh says:

      Can I get another Amen, brother?

      • The Random One says:

        Sorry, you’ve used up your five Amen activations. Please call costumer service with proof of prayer and further two Amens will be sent to you after a donation of $5.

    • Onyze says:

      Hear the voice of the Bard,
      Who present, past, and future, sees;
      Whose ears have heard
      The Holy Word
      That walked among the ancient tree;

      -William Blake

  3. aliksy says:

    Yeah, I don’t see the appeal of buying a separate device to play in the living room. Maybe partly because my current apartment has the computer in the “living room” already. Previous one did, too.

    • Teovald says:

      I think that my next configuration will be one living room computer (it could be a steam box if the system is interesting enough; probably not a piston though) and one general use laptop.
      Right now I only have a powerful laptop that I use for everything, from dev to games. My main OS is MacOsX (in the future it could be Linux, but certainly not Windows 8). I hate having to reboot each time I want to play for 20 minutes, then having to reboot to go back to what I was doing (I have a windows partition that I only use for gaming, and even if the situation is improving a large part of my library is still only playable on windows).

      So a dedicated machine would make a lot of sense for me. I know I am in a very specific case though.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Llewyn says:

    Surely the correct RPS headline is

    Xi3 ‘Steambox’ gets Piston by Valve

  5. MuscleHorse says:

    Call me a fool but wouldn’t such a compact bit of hardware easily overheat?

    • Baines says:

      Both ends are vents and one is filled entirely by a fan. And doesn’t it do the console game trick of putting the power supply outside the case?

    • F. Lynx Pardinus says:

      That was my initial reaction since back in the day I had a small-form-factor PC that would overheat during gaming sessions. But it does look like they try to address the issue with their design.

    • Apocalypse says:

      Nope, low powered, design for decent cooling, low tdp apu, and the psu is outside the case. Sounds not like overheating will be a problem. Hey, you got to get at least something for your $999

  6. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    The ever plausible Lewie Proctor said this earlier on twitter:

    ‘Prediction: The entry level Valve Steambox will be a ~$200 thin client for streaming to your TV and will come with ~$200 Steam credit’

    Now THAT I would buy, even with less/no credit. Who needs a small form factor PC when all I need is a decent router and hardware h.264 encode at both ends.

    Speaking of h.264 encode. The raspberry pi can do hardware h.264, given the right software, could it stream video and input to and from a local PC? Someone do this. Please.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Wait, $200 price with $200 steam credit? They will give hardware for free?

      • Premium User Badge

        amateurviking says:

        It’s just a prediction!

        Plus it’s not really ‘free’ in that you’re paying cash for hardware and would be given store credit worth $200. The economics may sound crazy but if they get enough people ‘locked into’ the steam store by owning a decent amount of stuff on there, those people are probably significantly more likely to buy more things/use the service more often. (obv the amount of credit could be easily something that changes).

        For example, when I got my GF a nexus 7 for her christmas, it came with £25 google store credit, meaning she could get a number of apps straight off the bat. Also it means she’s *far* more likely – having been made familiar with the buying process – to buy other stuff on there. Also she’s now much more likely to get an android-based smartphone because of that initial investment.

        • Shuck says:

          Consoles can offer subsidized hardware prices because you’re locked into buying games through them (that is, you can only buy games that have all paid per-unit license fees to the console makers). A Steambox would be a computer capable of purchasing games from anywhere. I just can’t see how Valve could ever sell hardware on which they’d taken a loss. Selling at cost, maybe.
          (Not to mention that a $200 Steam credit would give you enough games that your hardware would become obsolete before you ever played them all.)

      • Baines says:

        Steam credit would mean that people would have to spend it on Steam games, which would encourage them to buy more Steam games in the future.

        Steam gets a cut of whatever is sold on Steam, which would mitigate what they have to pay the publishers of games bought on credit. It would be more like Steam giving the hardware away at a steep discount than just giving it away for free.

        But yeah, while it might be what people want, it seems like giving away too much. I might could see Valve offering some of their games for free and throwing in some Steam credit, though. Maybe they could convince some other publishers to offer up specific titles for free, in the hope of expanding the PC game market.

        AMD does sometimes have some large game giveaways with some of its graphics cards, after all. Other PC hardware, and even PCs themselves, can come with bonus software to sweeten the deal as well, so it isn’t entirely out of the picture for Steam to throw in freebies.

        • ScubaMonster says:

          $200 would be ridiculous though. They’d be giving away a ton of games for that price. Look at steam sales. You could have a huge library with that amount, which would be completely counter productive to the goal of getting them to spend money.

          • Captchist says:

            Until a new game comes out.

            I have Origin on my computer. There are games in it. But I don’t USE Origin.

            Steam has a bunch of games in it, so I use it all the time. As a result, I see the steam store everyday, and I buy stuff from it every week.
            You need a critical mass of games for Steam to be something people use everyday (like Facebook) rather than something they use only when they want to play a given game (like… Google+ Hangouts… my analogy is falling apart)

      • etho says:

        I think his prediction could be plausible, but that the $200 steam credit might just be for pre-orders. Post release, maybe $50?

    • Premium User Badge

      Llewyn says:

      I don’t think there’s any suitable input for getting video output from your PC to encode. You could use a Pi to decode an H264 stream (1080p @ 30fps) for output to your TV, but I’m not sure the Pi is then actually capable of rendering that output in real time. Probably a non-starter, unfortunately.

      • Chriller says:

        Just to clear this up. It’s certainly able to render 1080p h264 video. XBMC is ported to Raspbian, and there’s other distributions made solely for the purpose of running XBMC, like RaspBMC. For streaming from the PC ethernet is as good as ever, so you’ll want Model B.

        There’s tons of videos of the Pi doing exactly this on youtube. So without having tried it, despite having had my Pi for some weeks now, I’d say it should work great. It might have problems with very high bit rates. A google search should get you any information you need on how to set this up.

    • Vinraith says:

      Now there’s a chilling prediction. That’d go a long way towards killing off the non-Steam PC gaming market in a single move.

      • RakeShark says:

        I doubt it’d kill the other stores. The caveat being the other stores need to sharpen their services.

    • Hahaha says:

      Even though it’s not an official announcement where is the outrage at the thought of gaming going that route?

      • Brun says:

        The prediction doesn’t make it terribly clear, but I think that, by “thin client for streaming games to the TV” it means streaming from your regular PC, not streaming the video from a Valve-owned server a la Onlive. Don’t really see the problem with that.

        If that’s the case though, they’ll need to be really careful with their marketing, lest people buy it thinking it’s a full-up console.

  7. N'Al says:

    Methinks someone’s taking the p-ss.

  8. Noburu says:

    I had a feeling something was amiss when the Piston goes for $1000 a pop.

    It didnt seem to me that it was priced low enough to get in everyone’s living room.

  9. IneptFromRussia says:

    Still don’t know what GPU that thing has, so weird they do not publish the specs.

  10. Stevostin says:

    “I am big enough and ugly enough to admit that hunching in front of a monitor on a knackered office chair is my past, present and future.”

    You could get that TV screen on your desktop, thus. You know it will eventually come to this!

  11. x1501 says:

    Am I allowed to swear in headlines?

    F-ck yeah!

    (Am I allowed to swear in comments?)

  12. PAK-9 says:

    It was only really the press who got all frothy about the mouth and claimed this was a SteamBox. I have heard Xi3 representatives correcting the media in interviews who ask them about their “partnership” with Valve etc… These guys have ended up getting a bunch of negative publicity about the price simply because the media had planted in their mind that it was somehow designed to be a cheap SteamBox type machine – which as far as I am aware was never the intention of Xi3. I feel a bit sorry for them.

    • suibhne says:

      Surely they brought it on themselves, at least in part? I doubt they chose their product name out of a hat.

    • Hahaha says:

      I have heard Xi3 representatives correcting the media in interviews who ask them about their “partnership” with Valve etc…”

      Really? fucking journalists are pure scum.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      The ridicule doesn’t stem from the fact it was billed as a Steam box. The price is ludicrous no matter what label you slap on it, and there isn’t even a market for it with that price tag.

    • Premium User Badge

      Thermal Ions says:

      While, yes, it could be argued the Xi3 reps in the videos I saw at the time did technically correct the “Steambox” link, they very much did it with a nudge, a wink, and a big grin while also letting their language play up a working relationship with Valve. They used language such as “you said it, not me” as opposed to “no, this isn’t the specific hardware Gabe has been talking about”.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if they pissed off Valve the way they went about it, and consequently are now reaping the fitting returns.

  13. IshtarGate says:

    What I don’t get is why everyone and their mothers were announcing this as the Steam Box in the first place. I thought Valve had initially made it clear that the Piston itself is *not* the Steambox, but an indication of what Valve is looking for in the long run.

    • derbefrier says:

      cause you know, the only reason people even care about it is because it got associated with Valve. If it wasnt for that we probably would have seen one article on it and never heard from it again.

  14. DXN says:

    What’s so dirty about “‘Piston ‘Steambox’ Gets Passed On By Valve”?

    • ScubaMonster says:

      I assume it was a reference to “pissed on”, but considering that’s not even how you pronounce piston…

      • Premium User Badge

        Lambchops says:

        I thought it was “pussed on.”

        I do not know what that means but it sounds dirty!

  15. TheThinkTanker says:

    This begs the question: Would we be more forgiving of the Piston and its price tag if it WERE Valve-endorsed?

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Not at all. Everywhere there has been articles about this, everybody has been slamming it and saying Valve is nuts. On Maximum PC’s Facebook page, they posted about the Piston, and there were hundreds of people saying this.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Some people would. There’s no shortage of Valve apologists in this world.

  16. Flappybat says:

    If people pay £2000 for a Mac Pro with £600 of computer parts in it they should be all over a £800 Piston with £300 of parts!

    (To be fair to the Piston that custom motherboard must make it difficult for them to offer a lower price).

  17. SlimPickins says:

    it really needs an option to buy it without a drive in it. many people already have one they could just toss in it.

  18. woodsey says:

    … So why the hell have the last few months of discussion on the Steam box shown this thing then? Did no one actually bother to ask Valve if this was theirs or not?

    I am very confused.

    • Hahaha says:

      This, did no one ask and just went off what exactly?

    • Falcon says:

      It was pretty clear from the CES videos and at least from some of the articles around CES that Valve weren’t personally involved with the Piston and were working on their own hardware as well as having other third-party vendors work on hardware.

      Some sites reporting on CES got overly excited and kept practically yelling “Steambox” and “Piston” over and over. I’d blame that on lack of quality journalism on some gaming sites more than anything else.

      • Premium User Badge

        AlwaysRight says:

        I always knew this was the case because I read RPS, so there.

  19. SkittleDiddler says:

    Boy oh boy, I’ll bet the fools at the Steam Community who were lauding this thing as “the first step in Valve’s domination over the console market” are feeling pretty stupid right now.

  20. Slinkyboy says:

    So it’s called the pissed-on now? Should I still get it, R Kelly??

  21. solymer89 says:

    i5-3570, 16GB RAM, GTX650Ti, Sabertooth z77 and all other relevant parts to make it go for under $900 and will last the next 5 years with little to no issue. Why oh why would anyone want to pay a G for this thing is and forever will be beyond me.

  22. Don Reba says:

    So, Piston got the shaft, eh?

    I am big enough and ugly enough to admit that hunching in front of a monitor on a knackered office chair is my past, present and future.

    I’m sorry, but you will have to hand in your PC Master Race card. We have a certain image to maintain.

  23. psaldorn says:

    Bigger, but cheaper and better:

    – CoolerMaster 120 Elite (Mini ITX case) £30
    – Zotec Z77ITX-A-E Mini ITX mobo (£110)
    – Core i5 3.4 GHz (£160)
    – Gigabyte GTX 660 OC 2GB (£170)
    – Corsair 2x4GB (£30)
    – Coolermaster Elite 500W (£30)
    – Seagate MomentusHybrid drive (£100)
    – Win 7 home OEM (£40)

    Obviously, with existing parts you can cut down but this rig handles Planetside 2 on Ultra settings. Plus everything else I’ve thrown at it. Also got same rig but with an i7 3550K and GTX 670. Fits in a backpack too.

  24. benab says:

    They pussed on it? Gross.

  25. trjp says:

    Can I just point out that all these people making high-spec PCs are missing the point – the comedy item in the news story is touted as a SteamBox and that means Linux gaming…

    You could spend £250 and get something which will run almost everything on Steam which works on Linux – of the whopping 160-odd Linux items (out of over 6500 items in total) the most demanding would be either CSS or SS3 and they’ll run at high settings on a dual-core with a £60 GPU!?!?

    I do like this thing tho – it’s the best laugh I’ve had in years – it literally has almost no market whatsoever…

  26. RoShamPoe says:

    “Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year, but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs,”

    Woah, stop the presses, those are fighting words. Seriously, I’m pretty disappointed with the article. There’s a complete disconnect between the title and the text. Valve is just confirming they have nothing to do with this company or its product, not pissing on anything.

    Not that it doesn’t deserve to be pissed on, as I believe the Piston is overpriced and not very current. I mean, I was at the SXSW demo, and the video of Tomb Raider running on the system looked poor quality AND hiccuped.

    But seriously, Alec, changing the entire tone of the article in a title just for wit is poor form. I expect better.

  27. roguewombat says:

    I read through the article and all the comments, but I still don’t get it. How does this news indicate that Valve passed on the Piston? And to whom did they do the passing??

  28. Thants says:

    I already have a Steambox. It’s called a PC.

  29. krisk7 says:

    I guess starting pre-orders by Xi3 for this over-priced gimmick was the last straw for Valve.

  30. YoFatManz says:

    Solution: Buy a hand saw, cut a hole in your wall, spend $700 dollars making a decent desktop ATX sized, shove into the wall hole, enjoy!

    simple, if not elegant.