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Xi3's Piston product plagued by controversy

Xi3's Piston product plagued by controversy

Xi3's Piston product, once positioned as an official Steam Box, appears to have stirred up a hornet's nest of controversy at Valve.

Xi3's announcement that it is taking pre-orders for the Piston compact gaming PC appears to have rattled cages at Valve, with the company taking the time to formally distance itself from what was once claimed to be a major partner in the Steam Box project.

When Xi3's Piston prototype hardware, based on the company's existing Modular Computer concept, was spotted at the Valve stand at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year, numerous news outlets jumped to the conclusion that the company had been contracted to produce Valve's long-awaited Steam Box console-cum-computer product. This conceptual leap wasn't exactly hindered by a vaguely-worded press release from Xi3 which stated that Xi3 had 'received investment from Valve Corporation,' while failing to detail exactly what form that investment had taken.

Indeed, alarm bells should have started ringing the instant the company claimed that 'no additional details about Xi3's new system or Valve's investment in Xi3 will be released at this time,' - and when Valve confirmed that Xi3 was not producing the Steam Box, but merely one Steam Box of many, that left a lot of news outlets with egg on their collective faces.

But, while its original tactics for receiving mainstream press attention may have been a trifle questionable, there's no denying that Xi3 is going ahead with its plan to produce a Steam-based compact gaming PC, having started taking pre-orders for the $1,000 device earlier this week following an announcement at the South By South West (SXSW) event. Running Windows with a custom shell over the top, rather than the tweaked version of Ubuntu Linux planned by Valve's own Steam Box, the device commands a high premium for packing some decidedly under-powered components into an admittedly compact chassis - and that high price appears to have attracted attention from Valve itself.

Speaking to Eurogamer, Valve's Doug Lombardi has broken silence to formally deny any link to Xi3's Piston console. 'Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year,' he admitted, 'but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs.' For a company that has boasted of Valve's 'investment' and which has gone to great lengths to position its product as an official Steam Box, that's a major blow.

Xi3, however, tells a different story - and this is where the story takes a twist, with founder and chief executive officer Jason A. Sullivan issuing a statement defending his company's original press release. 'We reaffirm the fact that we received an investment from Valve Corporation - as we previously disclosed during the 2013 International CES trade show - and we did so with Valve's written permission,' he claimed - while still refusing to detail exactly what form that investment took. 'Gabe Newell personally asked me that we not disclose additional information about our relationship with Valve. We have honoured that request and will continue to do so. That said, there are other items we need to cover,' Sullivan continued.

'We were asked to build a product specifically for Valve, and both companies showcased this product - the Piston Console - in their respective booths at CES 2013. the assumption of many in the media has been that Piston is the 'official' Steam Box. We've never said that and neither has Valve. That hasn't changed. But just because Valve may not 'currently' have any 'involvement with any product of (ours)' doesn't mean that such involvement won't exist in the future.

'It's also important to note that the Piston Console will allow gamers to access Steam regardless of what our relationship is or isn't with Valve. Additionally, Piston will also support a raft of other Internet-based gaming and entertainment platforms, which is more than what Valve apparently has planned for its official Steam Box. In this way, the Piston Console could be perceived as something more than just a Steam Box, which makes sense because at its core the Piston Console is a Modular Computer that can run any operating system or application designed to run on an x86-based 64-bit computer.

'Contrary to Valve's vision, Xi3 believes that the way to take this to market today is to do so with a Windows OS at the core, coupled with the ability to not just get to one platform/store for games, but to get access to all game stores/platforms. Studios should have the option to go through Steam if they choose or to go direct to the end-user if they so choose. That will be the difference between Piston and other Steam Boxes. You'll be able to access Steam if you choose, but you'll also be able to access other platforms as well-all through the Piston Console.
'

While its high-priced not-a-Steam-Box Piston may have riled Valve, Xi3 is confident it's on the right track. 'We have opened Piston Console pre-orders and have been amazed at the interest and amount of pre-orders we have received thus far. This just reaffirms to us our decision to open pre-orders, because we are seriously concerned we will not be able to meet the demand for Piston Consoles for the 2013 holiday season.'

In conclusion, Sullivan had some fighting words for the company it once hoped to woo with its Modular Computer technology: 'In closing, what Valve does or doesn't do with its Steam Box will be up to them. So Gabe, it's up to you. The ball is in your court.'

Thus far, Valve has not responded to Xi3's loquacious statement, but one thing is clear: there has either been a serious breakdown in communication, or the company's relationship has taken a major nosedive since the Piston was outed at the Consumer Electronics Show.

19 Comments

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steveo_mcg 13th March 2013, 10:37 Quote
So no Valve support and hideous expense, bye bye XI3....
XXAOSICXX 13th March 2013, 10:37 Quote
The plot thickens :)
Snips 13th March 2013, 11:07 Quote
I always felt this was some distance away from the "SteamBox" anyway.
greigaitken 13th March 2013, 11:09 Quote
Xi3: hey Valve, heard you making a console
Valve: yeah but we dont do hardware
Xi3: lets team up
Valve: cool, I'll send a guy round with some details

Valve: Hey, heard you teamed up with the enemy
Xi3: It's not that simple
Valve: This is not cool
Snips 13th March 2013, 11:19 Quote
Who's the enemy?

Remind me again who Valve makes the majority of it's money running on?
greigaitken 13th March 2013, 11:24 Quote
"Steam if you choose, but you'll also be able to access other platforms as well"
kingred 13th March 2013, 11:43 Quote
I think they just jumped the gun and started shouting too much before Valve was quite ready. I understand why valve would want to step away after they kept name dropping them so much.

Have a little decorum dudes.
Burnout21 13th March 2013, 12:06 Quote
I remember hearing rumours that the steambox would be a converted slim line alienware machine, something similar to their X51 system, and considering ubuntu's links with dell... steamOSbuntu lol!
Yaka 13th March 2013, 12:23 Quote
Thought dell stopped giving the option having Ubuntu as os
Mankz 13th March 2013, 14:46 Quote
Sounds like they were making too much noise and then probably got a little too much bad press when they said what the price was going to be.. Makes sense for Valve/Steam to distance themselves.
Baz 13th March 2013, 15:45 Quote
During CES I tweeted
Quote:
The rumours coming out of CES are ridiculous. If this http://imgur.com/a/MxZ3u is the steam box, I'll eat a SATA cable

My SATA cables are safe it would seem :)
Woodspoon 13th March 2013, 19:41 Quote
Looks to me like Valve paid Xi3 to make a prototype steam box, Xi3 starting making noise and saying they had investment from valve (to make a prototype) and Valve said "You've made too much noise and we don't want your box, bye"
Madness_3d 14th March 2013, 02:53 Quote
For me Steam Box died at the point EA took their stuff off. I know a lot of EA games are trash anyway but for it to succeed it needs to be able to play every pc game which is to say every console port. You're never going to get it on Linux and plowing dev time into it is a bit of a waste of time imo. I mean they're trying to open the whole industry up which is a good thing but it's just too much of a long shot by the looks of it.
fluxtatic 14th March 2013, 07:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Madness_3d
For me Steam Box died at the point EA took their stuff off. I know a lot of EA games are trash anyway but for it to succeed it needs to be able to play every pc game which is to say every console port. You're never going to get it on Linux and plowing dev time into it is a bit of a waste of time imo. I mean they're trying to open the whole industry up which is a good thing but it's just too much of a long shot by the looks of it.

I can see the appeal of it. Not saying I'll get one (I don't even have the right sort of TV to hook it up to), but I understand where they're coming from. Will it get tons of AAA games? Not likely...but I've got tons of games on Steam (and from Humble Bundles) that could or already have Linux ports.

Depends on the type of gamer you are, I suppose - I still play the old GTA games, VC and SA, on occasion, and Saints Row III was a blast, but a lot of what I play aren't console fodder.

At the same time, I seriously doubt I'd drop that kind of money on a SteamBox. Sure, it's kinda sexy, but not for a casual gaming box when I could build one for a third the cost (it'd be bigger and whatnot...but I don't have that kind of money to piss down my leg.)
forum_user 14th March 2013, 11:46 Quote
Maybe Valve decided to distance itself because of the price-point being so high? It seems most people are saying stuff like "$1,000 ... Erm, no.". I wonder if Valve had no say in how much Xi3 sells the Piston for and thought that the bad publicity would do them harm?

Also, seems peculiar timing that so many got the push at Valve HQ, and now Valve distance itself from what appeared to be their nearest partner in SteamBox dealings.
[USRF]Obiwan 14th March 2013, 15:23 Quote
Xi3: "We made a 'steambox' it is 1000 dollars"
Me: "hmmmz, very expensive for basic PC hardware"
Xi3: "No its not expensive, you can connect to Valve's steam for your games and also to Origin and others"
Me: "So you made a expensive Slimline PC, with low specs that can connect to internet"
Xi3: "Well ehm...... yes"
CowBlazed 14th March 2013, 22:53 Quote
It's more then just a steam box, I'll give them that. I didn't realize before now it was running Windows.

It's just a tiny PC. The form factor is interesting, the low end APU hardware for $1000 not so much.
musicrab 15th March 2013, 20:25 Quote
Let me get this right. One variant of Steambox is Linux. What percentage of Steam's catalogue is Linux and what percentage is Windows? Actually I can try and answer that. Steam has 164 Linux games on file and 6467 are windows. So what chance do Valve have of changing that balance before Steamboxes are born?

I'm not saying the Valve are wasting their time with a Linux gaming platform but its hardly main-stream nor is it likely to be main-stream any time soon.
forum_user 16th March 2013, 10:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by musicrab
Let me get this right. One variant of Steambox is Linux. What percentage of Steam's catalogue is Linux and what percentage is Windows? Actually I can try and answer that. Steam has 164 Linux games on file and 6467 are windows. So what chance do Valve have of changing that balance before Steamboxes are born?

I'm not saying the Valve are wasting their time with a Linux gaming platform but its hardly main-stream nor is it likely to be main-stream any time soon.

Gabe has said that the smaller variant will be able to receive streamed content delivered by our full PCs. Therefore I could install these in at least 3 rooms including 2 bedrooms plus living room, and stream from my home office. The smaller variants will run Linux. I'm not sure the mission is to a tip a balance - more so to make it happen, make it convenient and affordable.
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