Valve-Powered Piston Steam Box Fights Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo This Year

The Consumer Electronics Show isn't usually known for having a video game presence, but this year it was home to two big announcements: Valve was entering the hardware market with its own Steam Box console, and it would also support third-party platforms like Xi3's Piston.

It's not clear when Valve's own system will be revealed, but Piston is scheduled to be the world's first Steam Box, and it's arriving just in time for Christmas with a 2013 holiday season launch.

Even better for Valve fans is that Xi3 is currently taking pre-orders for the Piston, which will be available in three models (128GB, 256GB and 512GB). The bad news? The Piston starts at $1,000.

Xi3 will try to soften the blow by offering a $100 discount to early adopters, but either way you slice it, that's a lot of money.

According to Xi3, the company is taking pre-orders because it is concerned it wouldn't be able to meet demand. This way, the company can calculate how many units to produce.

"Given the amount of awards, media attention and gamer interest the PISTON Console has generated since it was unveiled at CES 2013 in January, we've become seriously concerned that we will not be able to meet the demand for Piston Consoles this year," said Jason A. Sullivan, founder, president and CEO of Xi3 Corporation, in a press release. "That's why we have decided to begin accepting pre-orders on our Piston Console, beginning today."

The Piston will be powered by Valve's Steam, an online service that can be used to purchase and play games. The Piston will stream any title available on Steam and play it on an HDTV. The system is only the size of a grapefruit, but it packs 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a Radeon 7000-series GPU and a 3.2Ghz AMD Trinity Quad Core processor.

"Clearly, the computer/video gaming market is huge, both in the personal computer and traditional console markets," Sullivan stated. "That being said, we believe there is a crying need for a machine that captures the best of both worlds, with the upgradeability of computer gaming rigs and the design and form factor of consoles. We believe our Piston Consoles do exactly that-deliver the beauty and small size of consoles with the upgradeability of computers."

The emergence of mobile devices as game-playing platforms has shifted the gaming industry significantly, and the Piston is an attempt to wrest power away from the likes of Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft and toward PC platforms. It's too early to tell if it'll stand a chance, but in a landscape as fast-changing as video games, anything can happen.

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