Steam console showcased at CES

piston imageIt wasn’t long ago that the Steam Box was just a rumour. But news that it was definitely on its way came at the end of last year when company boss Gabe Newell confirmed the gossip was true.

But, at the time, he remained tight lipped about what form the gizmo would take and what its specifications would be.

Now all, or at least some, is thought to have been revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Steam’s parent company Valve showcased the prototype of the modular PC which is designed to let users play Steam games through their television sets.

At the moment, the prototype, which has been developed by Xi3 Corporation and funded by Valve, has been codenamed Piston.

Described as “uniquely grapefruit-sized” by its developers, the new device has been shown on both Valve and Xi3’s stands at CES but no further details of its internal features have yet been given.

Other Xi3 computers are, however, based around dual core Intel chips and use solid state storage so it seems safe to assume the new Steam Box, or Piston, will use the same technology. It also contains a quad-core AMD APU and can handle up to 1 TB of storage.

The set-top box will allow users to access thousands of gaming titles through an integrated system.

While this is not definitely the Steam Box – Newell has already said we’ll be seeing that later this year – it could certainly be the hardware that runs it.

Jason A Sullivan, president and CEO of Xi3, described the launch as “the beginning of a new era for Xi3”. He added: “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 into the palm of your hand.”

PistonXi3 has so far refused to discuss any pricing for Piston, but did comment that the Steam Box is based on its “performance level” X7A, which is priced at $999. Xi3 also offers the entry level X5A, priced at $499, which has a Linux operating system.

But, considering most games consoles come in under that price, it could be difficult to persuade consumers to part with that amount of cash.

And Valve has said it will be spending its week at CES meeting hardware and content developers and showcasing multiple custom hardware prototypes.

Valve marketing director Doug Lombardi said: “Valve will be at CES to meet with hardware and content developers in our booth space. We are bringing multiple custom hardware prototypes off-the-shelf PCs to our CES meetings.”

He said the prototypes were “low-cost, high performance designs for the living room that are great candidates for Steam and Big Picture,” and he promised to share more information with the press and public in “coming months”.