New Twist In 'Steam Box' Saga: Piston Makers Say They Were 'Asked To Build A Product Specifically By Valve'

Hardware maker Xi3 has addressed today's confusion, telling Kotaku tonight that despite Valve's statements this morning, the Steam makers actually asked Xi3 to design the Piston PC.

In a strange statement this morning, Valve distanced themselves from Piston, a living-room-friendly PC that some have taken to calling an unofficial 'Steam Box' because it is designed to hook up to your television and play games in Steam's Big Picture mode—and because Xi3 said it had been backed by Valve.

"Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year, but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs," Valve marketing head Doug Lombardi said in a statement originally obtained by Eurogamer (and by Kotaku later today).

Lombardi's statement was tough to square with what Xi3 had announced in January, when they first showed off the Piston at CES in Las Vegas. At the time, Xi3 said that Valve was helping back the new hardware.

"Xi3 also announced today it has received an investment from Valve Corporation," Xi3 said in a press release then. "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."

Last weekend, Xi3 announced that the Piston will launch this holiday season with models starting at $1,000.

We've been reaching out to both Xi3 and Valve all day to get some clarification, and in a statement sent to Kotaku tonight, Xi3 said that Valve not only invested in the Piston, but the Steam makers actually asked them to make it.

Here's the full statement from Xi3:

"We reaffirm the fact that we received an investment from Valve Corporation (as we previously disclosed during the 2013 International CES trade show), and we did so with Valve's written permission," said Jason A. Sullivan, founder, president and CEO of Xi3 Corporation. "Second, we were asked to build a product specifically for Valve, and both companies showcased this product—the Piston Console—in their respective booths at CES 2013.

"Then, during a meeting with Valve at CES, Gabe Newell personally asked me that we not disclose additional information about our relationship with Valve. We have honored that request and will continue to do so. That said, there are other items we need to cover.

"For example, the assumption of many in the media has been that Piston is the ‘official' Steam Box. We've never said that and neither has Valve. That hasn't changed. But just because Valve may not ‘currently' have any ‘involvement with any product of (ours)' doesn't mean that such involvement won't exist in the future.

"It's also important to note that the Piston Console will allow gamers to access Steam regardless of what our relationship is or isn't with Valve. Additionally, Piston will also support a raft of other Internet-based gaming and entertainment platforms, which is more than what Valve apparently has planned for its official Steam Box. In this way, the Piston Console could be perceived as something more than just a Steam Box, which makes sense because at its core the Piston Console is a Modular Computer that can run any operating system or application designed to run on an x86-based 64-bit computer.

"To be clear, the Piston Console will ship initially with a Windows operating system specifically because that's where the vast bulk of game software and computer gamers are today. That said, the Piston Console can also run Linux (and other operating systems), which means it can support the Linux-version of Steam.

"Contrary to Valve's vision, Xi3 believes that the way to take this to market today is to do so with a Windows OS at the core, coupled with the ability to not just get to one platform/store for games, but to get access to all game stores/platforms. Studios should have the option to go through Steam if they choose or to go direct to the end-user if they so choose. That will be the difference between Piston and other Steam Boxes. You'll be able to access Steam if you choose, but you'll also be able to access other platforms as well-all through the Piston Console.

"We have opened Piston Console pre-orders and have been amazed at the interest and amount of pre-orders we have received thus far. This just reaffirms to us our decision to open pre-orders, because we are seriously concerned we will not be able to meet the demand for Piston Consoles for the 2013 Holiday Season.

"In closing, what Valve does or doesn't do with its Steam Box will be up to them. So Gabe, it's up to you. The ball is in your court."