There were quite a few revelations that can potentially impact the gaming industry revealed at this year's CES. NVidia unveiled its prototype Android gaming handheld based on its Tegra 4 chipset. Project Fiona, which debuted at CES 2012, has officially become known as Razer Edge. Now, "Half-Life" developer Valve has pulled back the sheets on its own set top box, tentatively called Piston.
Rumors of Valve entering the hardware market first popped up last September when Valve put out the call that it was looking for people with experience in launching hardware. The company confirmed the rumor within the last few weeks that it was working on hardware to compete with next generation consoles. CES marks the official debut of Piston.
Valve is partnering with firm Xi3, a company that specializes in modular computing. This is important because Valve is planning on its set top box being modular, meaning that it can be upgraded as newer and more innovative technologies come along. Both companies are working to make the processor and I/O modules to be able to be upgradeable as opposed to having to upgrade the entire system. Those who are familiar with PC gaming will understand this well as the parts of a PC.
No other specifics for the Piston were given but Xi3 states the system will be based on its X7A architecture. The specs for the X7A are impressive: It has a quad-core AMD APU which combines processing and graphical performance, 8GB DDR3 RAM and 1TB of SSD for storage. However the price of entry for the X7A is steep at around $999.
Xi3 originally started out trying to use crowd source funding to bring its modular computer to market but fell short of its goal. The partnership with Valve will most certainly ensure that Piston will come to market.
Pricing and system availability for Piston are still unknown at this time.
Update: Apparently Piston is not the system that Valve will be using for its own set top box. IGN reached out to Valve co-chairman Gabe Newell who issued a clarification. In a statement Mr. Newell said, "We'll come out with our own and we'll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That'll be a Linux box, and 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."
The system that Valve will be selling will be based on the same platform as the Piston and will act as a mini-server, allowing up to eight games, monitors and controllers to be used simultaneously. Motion control will not be supported on the Steam box.
Mr. Newell also confirmed that nothing regarding the Steambox will be released this year.