Steam Box and Piston Set Sights on Console Market

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By: Chella Ramanan

Xi3 has announced a dedicated machine, bringing Steam games to televisions. Dubbed Piston, the cube is apparently the size of a grapefruit and has been developed in partnership with Valve. For once, it turns out that the internet rumours of a fabled ‘Steam Box’ were true, which could put more pressure on the next generation of consoles.

Apart from its sit-in-the-palm-of-your-hand size, the most notable thing about Piston is that it’s easy to upgrade. With three card components, users can easily swap cards, giving the system longevity and also giving traditional consoles a run for their money.

Jason A. Sullivan, president and CEO of Xi3 explains, ‘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.’

It turns out that Xi3’s prototype machine is just one of what will be a number of partnerships developing Steam Boxes. Gabe Newell, the big cheese at Valve has also confirmed that they are working on their own Steam Box with a focus on performance.

Newell says, ‘We’ll come out with our own and we’ll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That’ll be a Linux box, if you want to install Windows you can. We’re not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination.’

Valve will be supporting the development of systems based on what Newell describes as a ‘good, better and best’ tier structure, starting with low-cost streaming solutions to systems with a dedicated CPU and GPU.

With an eye firmly on the console’s spot under the TV, the Steam Box looks set to shake things up. With prices like $99 being bandied around the internet for an entry tier machine and others saying $499 for a console you can upgrade, Steam Box could do more than just lure PC gamers into the living-room.

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