Xi3 Says While Piston May Not Be An ‘Official’ Steam Box, It Could Be Better Than One

The Xi3 Piston opened for pre-orders on Monday, and seemed to be the first of many Steam Box type devices powered by Valve’s online gaming store and service. But Valve quickly came out and said that despite their investment in Xi3, the company has no “official involvement” in the development of the Piston itself. Now Xi3 is firing back, admitting that while it received investment and the Piston console was built as the result of a request to build a device specifically for Valve, Valve isn’t currently involved in the project.

Xi3 says that Valve president Gabe Newell personally asked its founder and CEO Jason A. Sullivan not to disclose any info about the relationship between the two companies, and that’s just what it has done. The Piston was never an official “Steam Box,” Xi3 says, which is also what we pointed out in our article. Instead, we suggested it would be one of many devices from third-party OEMs that could fit the generic description of a PC console designed for Steam.

The release from Xi3 also goes on to claim that the Piston can actually do one better than any official hardware, since it’s fully open to support a whole host of different gaming platforms, not just Valve’s. Xi3 also says that it’ll ship with Windows initially, since that’s where the “vast bulk of game software and computer gamers are today,” not Linux (thought it is Linux-compatible). Xi3 says this is where Valve and it have a philosophical difference, and where the Piston will be able to offer consumers more choice than any officially blessed Steam Box.

Sullivan says in the release that pre-order demand has been very strong so far, and the company is actually concerned it won’t be able to meet holiday 2013 demand for the console. But the tone overall seems a little like that of a child whose affection was spurned: it gives the impression that Xi3 was slightly taken aback at the force with which Valve distanced itself from the Piston project.

Whatever the situation between Xi3 and Valve, the upshot is that there will be ‘Steam boxes’ and there will be ‘Steam Boxes,’ (Official) and Valve might have trouble keeping the public educated as to which is which. And in the end you have to wonder if it matters, so long as both provide full access to Steam and its games in a console-style environment.