CNET Australia: Valve, Xi3 and the Steam Box: should consoles be scared?
Piston, the Valve-funded gaming PC from Xi3, could be the big Steam Box-style break that the Big Picture was designed for.
By Nic Healey
(Credit: Rich Brown/CNET)
Xi3 is the designer of small form-factor "modular PCs" with a distinctive shape. And by small form factor, we mean it; the Xi3 basic chassis can be quite happily held in the palm of one hand.
Valve, on the other hand, is the creator of Steam, the digital distribution platform for gaming that looks hell bent on world domination. It recently launched Big Picture, a version of Steam designed specifically for TV sets, working with a console-style controller as adeptly as a keyboard and mouse. It came out of beta recently.
If there was only some way of bringing them together...
Hinting back in December last year that PC hardware purpose built for Steam wasn't too far away, the deal was pretty much sealed at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) when Xi3 showed off the Piston.
The Piston is a Valve-funded project, a PC built specifically for Steam and Big Picture, all inside what Xi3 bizarrely calls a "grapefruit-sized" case.
In the press release boilerplate, Jason A Sullivan, founder, president and CEO of Xi3, said:
Other than that, the company is being tight lipped about the specs and details, telling reporters only that it is based somewhat on its existing 7 Series. For the record, the 7 Series is based on AMD's R-Series APUs — quad-core processors up to 3.2GHz. It also has AMD's 384 core Radeon HD 7660G graphics core built in. But those specs won't necessarily reflect the Piston.
It's also worth noting that this collaboration between Valve and Xi3 isn't exclusive — they're still free to see other manufacturers, and they'll still respect each other the next morning.
So, with even money suggesting that at least one new-generation console might be unveiled this year, should Sony and Microsoft be worried about Piston?
It's a tricky question. Consoles and PCs have traditionally filled different gaming niches, with consoles having an additional emphasis on entertainment, with music and movie offerings and much more.
But the Piston — and any other Steam Box that gets developed — is aimed at the lounge room, and that puts it firmly in competition with any console device.
While hardcore PC enthusiasts are always going to be reluctant to swap a keyboard for a controller, console gamers (with the emphasis on the gaming, rather than the entertainment) must be looking at their ageing hardware and wondering why they're putting up with it.
In the end, a couple of key factors will help determine the success of the Piston against the likes of the PS3 and Xbox. One is how long gamers will need to wait for the next-generation consoles. While Microsoft may announce a new Xbox at E3, that doesn't mean it'll be available soon after. The second, as always, is the price. The Xi3 7 series can sell for up to US$999, which is a little higher than we anticipate consumers would be willing to pay.
Either way, we're watching this with interest.
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Xi3 NewsMarch 09, 2013:
GEEK: Geek @ SXSW: Xi3, Modular Computing & the PISTON Gaming System Liveblog
March 08, 2013:
NEWS RELEASE: With Demand Growing, Xi3 Corporation Opens Pre-Orders for its PISTON Console (PC)
March 04, 2013:
NEWS RELEASE: Xi3 Corporation to Showcase Modular Computers and Servers at HIMSS13
February 15, 2013:
The Guardian: The future of gaming: key contenders
February 06, 2013:
Develop: The other next generation of consoles
Xi3 EventsOctober 18, 2012:
CETPA 2012: Xi3 to Exhibit at Annual California Educational Technology Professionals Association Conference
October 17, 2012:
RETECH 2012: Xi3 to Exhibit at Leading Renewable Energy Conference
October 12, 2012:
D&H Headquarters: Xi3 Featured During Sales Floor Day
June 21, 2012:
EVENTS: Xi3 to Exhibit at the D&H Mid-Atlantic Summer Technology Show 2012
March 27, 2012:
Xi3 presenting at the Design West 2012 show March 27 - 29
Xi3 AccoladesQUOTE: In a revelation that will perhaps steal the entire (CES 2013) show -- via Gameranx
QUOTE: Xi3 products seem destined to change the way many people look at their systems -- via The Washington Times
QUOTE: The Xi3 Modular Computer has "some impressive stats for something so tiny" -- via the Los Angeles Times
QUOTE: "The Xi3 Modular Computer is one cool-looking desktop in a cube" -- via Engadget
QUOTE: "Hats off to Xi3 . . . for making a better Mac than Apple" via The Desk of DV Dude