Piston revealed as first 'Steam Box'

Valve opened up, and out came the Piston: A micro PC collaboration between Valve and computer manufacturer Xi3 was revealed as a development-stage "Steam Box" at the Consumer Electronics Show tonight. The system codenamed Piston was built from the ground up to bring Steam's network and library of games to living room HDTVs with minimal fuss.

Polygon reports the computer, which appears to be about the size of two moderate-to-beefy fists held together, is optimized for Steam's Big Picture Mode. Xi3 developed Piston through a partnership with Valve.

"[T]his 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," president, founder, and CEO of Xi3 Jason Sullivan said.

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell said in December that his company planned to back its own horse in the coming living room PC battle, though it will still fully support externally developed hardware.

Specifications for Piston are still scarce and likely to change, though Xi3 confirmed the system will hold up to a terabyte of internal storage and have modular component upgrades for its CPU and RAM. Xi3 did not reveal Piston's operating system, though it already supports Linux in other models, and Valve recently pushed Steam's client for the open-source OS into open beta.

Piston is based on Xi3's current "performance level" X7A, which is depicted in the picture above. That system runs for $999, though its entry-level X5A runs at $499. Xi3 did not comment on Piston's price range.

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.