[UPDATE: Remarkably, it appears Polygon has some exclusive details on this Steam-centric mini-PC that Xi3 is working, on alongside Valve.
Dubbed "Piston" (see what they did there?), it will be based on Xi3's high-end, performance-level X7A model. In addition, TIME and Eurogamer have more information on the Piston, straight from CES 2013.]
Generally, a computer is pretty big. Which is why Valve’s great big master plan to get us to move our computers all the way into the living room, and somehow connect them to our TVs might not have made much sense, at first glance. But as we all know, Valve has an active hardware lab, with the immediate design goal of making Steam games more fun to play in the living room.
And as Gabe Newell himself has confirmed, Valve are in fact developing their own unique “living room PC“, alongside other hardware companies. And according to Gabe, we can expect to start seeing these little PCs in stores, some time later this year. In fact, just a few days ago, it was reported that Valve hardware engineer Ben Krasnow had confirmed, at the EHSM 2012 conference in Berlin, that Valve’s hardware lab would be releasing a few of its currently secret projects, in the course of 2013.
Could that include this mythical “living room PC” that some call the Steam Box? More importantly, will anyone please come up with a better name than that? How about… Steam Engine? Well, in any case, one great big announcement has finally emerged from this sea of uncertainty! And it’s a very big announcement, for a surprisingly tiny piece of hardware. Read on!
The Xi3 Corporation, creators of the Xi3 line of grapefruit-sized modular computers, today announced:
[...] a development stage system optimized for computer gameplay on large high-definition television monitors.
Housed in the uniquely shaped, grapefruit-size Xi3® Modular™ Computer chassis, this new development stage product is being showcased this week at the 2013 International CES trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada in booth #20425 in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Xi3′s new development stage product is designed specifically to support both Steam® and its Big Picture™ mode for residential and LAN party computer gaming on larger high-def screens.
With more than 50 million subscribers around the world, Steam is the digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications/community platform from Valve Corporation. Big Picture mode allows members to access and play games through Steam on any connected high-definition television display/monitor.
“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.”
Xi3 also announced today it has received an investment from Valve Corporation. Xi3′s new development stage computer game system is also being showcased in Valve’s booth (#25730) at CES 2013. No additional details about Xi3′s new system or Valve’s investment in Xi3 will be released at this time.
And that’s where the press release ends.
So, not only has Valve invested in the development of this Xi3 gaming computer, but they will also be showing it off at their CES booth, this coming week. It’s interesting to note that this appears to be a very secretive development, at least for the time being. All we know is that it’s been designed with Steam and Big Picture Mode specifically in mind, and that it’ll be housed within the Xi3 computer chassis, as pictured just above.
That said, I don’t think this is the mythical Steam Box that we’ve all been speculating about this past year. It seems to be something that Xi3 themselves are actively developing, and that Valve have merely invested in. Why, you ask? Well, I would say that it is in Valve’s best interest to get this budding “living room PC” market going, and to get as many options out on the market as possible. Gabe has confirmed that Valve will be releasing their own living room hardware, and this is almost certainly not it. But it’s very interesting to see them cooperating with other hardware companies, in order to establish the living room PC as a worthy competitor to the coming year’s next-gen consoles.
Now, the standard Xi3 modular computer has a minimum price of $500, though more well-equipped configurations could go beyond $750. And while there’s no telling what this Valve-Xi3 gaming computer will contain, at launch, I’d estimate that any possible pricepoints would lie somewhere around the $500-$600 mark. Which, as far as a highly robust, extremely portable and surprisingly modular computer systems go… is actually fairly reasonable. Remember, this isn’t meant to compete with any highly affordable game console. It’s been designed as an incredibly affordable and versatile entry-level PC, for use all around the house.
But in a way, it’s both a PC and a console, isn’t it? And we also need to take into account the affordability of Steam games (especially when they’re on sale), as opposed to the steeper prices for retail console games. When you’re buying this thing, you’re also getting full compatibility with each and every game you own on Steam, as long as this particular system is running Windows (I think Valve will only be using Linux for its own proprietary hardware).
In any case, I’m definitely interested in finding out more about this Xi3 gaming computer, and the extent to which Valve is involved in its development! It may not be the Steam Box (or Steam Engine) we’re all so curious about, but this is also looking pretty cool in its own right. Let’s hope CES ’13 brings us more details on this little beast!
Feature image concocted by our new staff member, Lilgreenman, using publically available images of the Xi3 computers.