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A 'Steam Box' for the TV emerges at CES
A 'Steam Box' for the TV emerges at CES
January 7, 2013 | By Patrick Miller

January 7, 2013 | By Patrick Miller
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    39 comments
More: Console/PC, Programming, Business/Marketing



Today at the International Consumer Electronics Show 2013 in Las Vegas, modular PC developer Xi3 announced that it had received an investment from Valve Software, and would be working together with the company to produce a new "development stage" product designed with Steam, and its HDTV-friendly Big Picture mode, in mind.

Valve has made no secret that it is looking into Steam-friendly hardware that would make PC games friendly for the living room, posing a threat to dedicated game consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. This third-party hardware (i.e., it's not produced by Valve itself) is the first Steam-optimized, Valve-backed device to go public.

News of the device -- codenamed "Piston" -- arrives shortly after the launch of Nintendo's new Wii U, and during a year when Sony and Microsoft are expected to make their next-gen moves in the video game space.

"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," Xi3 founder Jason A. Sullivan said in a press release (which did not offer pricing details).

"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." The prototype will be on display on the show floor at CES this week. 

Xi3 had previously attracted attention for its ambitious Kickstarter campaign in late 2012, promising to "usher in the post-PC era." The campaign only received $90,000 of its $250,000 funding goal.



Image credit: Polygon


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Comments


GameViewPoint Developer
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If this just ends up being a fancy looking PC with a high price tag, it's going to fail.

k s
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I'm not sure it can really be anything else other then this or a non-upgradable PC.

Thom Q
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The real steambox should come in different models. The basic version maybe starting at around $400.

And yeah, easily upgradable is probably a must have too. The target group for it is of course console gamers, so letting them screw open their case is not really an option.

Lets hope Valve decides to really do it.
Although the piston looks like a nice start :)

Svein-Gunnar Johansen
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I have attempted an analysis of whether it has the potential to become a good gaming PC or not:

http://tinyurl.com/b2vhxly

Short version: I am cautiously optimistic.

Marcus Miller
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Goodbye Xbox...

Fiore Iantosca
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YAH RIGHT

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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From the size you already know it probably doesn't have enough power(Watts and CPU/GPU). However, I glanced at the website and it looks like they have a patent to connect more than one of those together... Which is obviously impressive.

At only 20/100 watts, it's a very low, low wattage. But the specs seem better than average. Another feature it said was the ability to run multiple users at the same time. One 20 watt computer for three users? Rather than say, 200 or 300 for each?

Dan the gaming Guy
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This looks more appealing to me than a disk based console the size of a large box of cereal with noisy fans, high pitch disk drive, and slower data transfer speeds than hard drives.

Sony/Microsoft, when I'm bored at home, I don't want to have to drive down to the store to buy your disk game, battling traffic, looking for parking, hoping the game I want is in stock, being up sold to buy disk insurance, waiting in a checkout, showing my id, etc.

I used to do that, before the Apple and Steam store (okay, I still buy a few disk games every year, but to be honest with you, I don't like buying disk games anymore, so you usually lose out to convenience when I can buy a game digitally at home, and your games cost $65 after tax, with a chunk of that money going to the retailer for the lack of convenience). Sucks for the retailer, but they are no longer necessary to sell games (like blockbuster to rent videos in 2008 or tower records to sell music in 2004), cut them out, reduce AAA games to $40-$50 making your entertainment more accessible from a cost and purchasing point.

I hope you guys make a diskless version of your next consoles. Ohh, but that might upset your retailers... you need brick and mortar stores to sell your hardware, I don't care, I'll buy your hardware online and you can ship it to me. Thanks. Or you want to argue that half of America does not have internet connections (for now) to buy your digital games, hmm, phones, tablets, Steam don't have disk drives and their businesses seem to be doing alright.

To bring this rant back to the article at hand, I think Value is looking in the right direction and they have my full attention.

Alex Nichiporchik
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November 2013

Valve Announces a sub-$300 price point for the Steam Box, selling it at a loss or net-zero

The Box runs Linux which developers were urged to port stuff to earlier this year

It's available next day after Announcement

And it launches exclusively with Half-Life 3

Same day Valve goes to the stock market

Most valuable IPO in history

Gabe Newell invests profits from IPO into cancer research. Valve cures cancer. Becomes most valuable company on Earth.

Valve buys Apple

Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo shoot themselves

The world is at universal peace. Gabe Newell is crowned king of earth.

Thom Q
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Valve buys Apple? What does Valve want with that glorified mp3 player maker? ;)

Adam Rebika
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By November 2013, it will certainly be already released.
And Valve have absolutely no reason to go to the stock market.

Dave Hoskins
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Old Xi3 press news state $499 to $1000 for the little PC.
http://www.xi3.com/news.php?id=778
*ediit*
It's going to be based on their previous models, so there's two versions:
http://www.polygon.com/2013/1/7/3849284/piston-valve-steam-box-xi
3

Matthew Mouras
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Consumers can buy some serious PC gaming hardware for $499 - $1199, especially if they are building a box themselves. The only part of their Kickstarter pitch that I remember was that their device was small, had a solid state drive, and plenty of USB ports. Where's the hardware value? Or doesn't that matter? Will the Steam brand be enough?

Dave Hoskins
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They probably made a mistake mentioning the previous boxes. We really have no idea if it's subsidised by valve to reduce the price, or even what's in the boxes.

Alan Rimkeit
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Specs? I can't find any/ If anyone knows them please tell me. Thanks in advance. :)

I do like the idea of more competition. Competition in hardware only means more choice and freedom for consumers. This will also mean more access for devs as well, which all adds to a healthy video game market. I think that Valve will do well based just off of their good name alone.

A W
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Steambox is not a choice, its an extension of something that's already there.

Alan Rimkeit
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@A W - The average consumer most likely has no idea what Steam is. They will perceive this as a new console. I do tech support for video games and the average user has zero idea what even technical specifications for a computer to run a game are. They buy games expecting them to run like on a PS3 or an X-Box.

They obviously do not. If this reaches the mind set of the average consumer it will make it easier for them to play PC games. In essence you are correct, but the perception of the public consumers is what matter in this case. Hopefully Valve markets it very well.

@Christian Keichel - Much thanks!

EDIT: Looking pretty good thus far. Sony and Microsoft may have some serious competition on their hands. Which is good for everyone but them.

TC Weidner
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but here is the problem as I see it, You buy a ps3 , every single game that comes out for the ps3 will work fine on your ps3 no matter when you bought it. Computers not so much, this machine may run the current pc games ok, in a few years not so much, and that is a big difference from consoles.

Alan Rimkeit
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@TC Weidner - Then it is up to the devs to match the games to the system specifications that their customers are using. If this Steam box turns out to be a success then it would behoove devs to bring their games to it to make money. As I see it the Steam box is nearly the same as consoles except that it is 100% digital downloads. The PS3 and the X-Box are pretty weak in comparison to the current mid to high end level PC's. yet the markets for the games keep rolling along.

A W
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So, I' guessing cloud GPGPU server gaming is the wave of the future given the several devices that have come out of CES thus far? Gaming and graphics are going to improve given the latency between what the server has to load on to the hardware that plays it.

The Wii U seems to be the device that's going to be between the transition rather than the full transition. It's positioned to be the sideline player again this generation, which doesn't surprise me given Nintendo track record on staying one step behind completely new forms of tech while slinging a little of the same mud onto the wall to see if it stick. Looks like they aren't making the same mistakes they made with the transition to the CD style media format for gaming.

From what I see, this Apple TV like device is going to be much like the Wii U is in complementing whats already established rather that directly competing with the establishment. The next gen started last year around Thanksgiving, now is the time to see what will come of it after 2013 is done and all these devices are circulating the market.

Cordero W
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No way will this ever be in my house. But Valve was able to trick people into buying their games and selling others' games at cheap prices, so I'm sure they'll somehow make this work. Unfortunately.

Alan Rimkeit
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How is this any different than any other digital download service? Besides it being a dedicated box?

Cordero W
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Exactly. How is it any "different."

Lyon Medina
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I hopefully get to go and look at it today [At work :( ]. But honestly if this is an extension of a sort to bring your PC into the living room then by nature you still need to have a PC that can run these processor heavy games. (My PC has trouble running DOTA 2)

Yes this is a step forward, but what is the end result going to be? Where does Valve see this fitting in homes or how is this going to be used? Valve is a lot of things to the gaming world, but does it really mean anything to the general public?

Dave Hoskins
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I'm liking this box more and more, now the specs are becoming clearer. I'm guessing it will be same price as the PS3 when it came out.
And I noticed on their xi3 web site that software can be locked to a machine. Not much more explained though.

TC Weidner
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what is the fascination with owning the "living room". As any family will tell you, not much happens in the family room anymore in america. Everyone is almost always scattered about doing their own thing all the time.

Alan Rimkeit
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Because couches rule and are comfy.

Alex Nichiporchik
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Once you go couch gaming, you don't go back

Dave Hoskins
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It's just about accessing games on the best TV in the house, sat on the best seat.
I found Laser mice work surprisingly well on a couch seat, as well.

Vincent Hyne
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I use a FullHD Projector at 101 inches tied to a gaming computer.

I sit on the couch in my living room, the mouse is on the hand rest and the keyboard in my lap (wireless obviously).

It could easily have been any TV, the ports are universal now, HDMI only or DVI to HDMI.

Anyone claiming PC's are divorced from the couch just don't know what they're talking about or lack imagination.

And yes, it beats the shit out of sitting at a desk, no matter how comfortable that office chair may be.

Luis Guimaraes
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That's why I have a couch right besides the computer, a projector above the couch, a white wall on the opposite side, and a wired thumb trackball mouse.

Keyboard to the lap. Mouse to the couch. Game to the wall.

Bigger and nicer picture than a TV, and it doesn't feel like you're operating an excavator arm in game.

@Vincent Hyne

Oh, just read your comment after posting =)

Cordero W
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Not everyone lives by themselves and are a shut in. When your friends come over or if you have a family or if you simply have roommates, as a normal person, you're not going to be entertaining them to your PC, but instead your tv with its game console and dvd. Or maybe a board game to tie over social conversations.

Dave Troyer
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@Cordero W - I'm thinking you're just upset at change. But hate to break it to you; things have been changing and you haven't seemed to notice.

All game consoles have been evolving to be more like PC's by adding features. It started with the ability to play music from CD's, then to play DVD's, and then onto the internet and downloading entertainment content. Heck, the 360 is a dumbed down Windows OS on some 10 year old PC hardware.

So with consoles trying to be more and more comparable to a PC, why not cut out the middle man and just go straight for a PC that is designed to work with a HDTV instead of a monitor?

It makes sense. At least more sense than having a half-dozen different devices connected to your TV that you need to fiddle with every time your company wants to do something different.

A W
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I got a question, maybe stupid in nature, but why would this not be compatible with Nivida Shield and it's server system? I mean, they didn't show a controller so I'm assuming that the controller type is left up to the consumer. Could this Shield thing be compatible?

David Marcum
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It appears this is not the only candidate for the "Steam Box".

http://www.polygon.com/2013/1/8/3850952/valve-meeting-with-hardwa
re-and-content-developers-at-ces-piston-one

Kevin Fishburne
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Full disclosure: I'm almost finished with a Linux-exclusive game. That aside, I think the fact that this is the only console not using Android or some proprietary OS is pretty significant. The software ecosystem and dev libraries of GNU/Linux is insanely robust and a huge asset to any studios not wielding AAA budgets. No doubt Valve won't allow games to install any package they like as dependencies as with a traditional Linux distro, but if they allow libraries to be packaged with individual games and used only by those games then the possibilities for small studios are endless.

Granted the consumer just wants good games on a reasonably-priced system and doesn't care about the technical details, but from a dev's perspective this kind of openness hasn't been seen on a console.

John Gordon
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Seems like this device is going to compete most directly with the XBox line of consoles. I'm not sure I would want to compete directly with a company that generates a ton of revenue from gaming and still can't make a profit. Seems like approaching the market this way is a bad idea from the get go.

Sure those little guy consoles like Ouya and Gamestick might go down in flames, but at least they are trying something different from a strategy that has already proven to fail. Those little guys at least have a chance at succeeding. I don't see how this even has a chance.

Bob Johnson
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Definitely a different device than the Android microconsoles. Too little info to comment on. I think Valve is still exploring possibilities here. This isn't the only potential hardware partner they are talking to.

Actually sounds like they are making their own box that is quiet and good power and small form factor. And letting partners make better boxes with all the bells and whistles. And partners will also make cheaper boxes that from the sound of it might be what the Shield is?

Diego Leao
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I think Valve is testing the waters, I'm fine with that. They don't even have their controller design decided yet, so I'll give them time. Seems promissing already, though.


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