Earlier in the week there were reports that Valve was distancing itself from the Xi3 Piston project. Valve representative Doug Lombardi was quoted by Eurogamer as saying “Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year, but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs”. This brief statement raised more questions than it answered; actually the Lombardi quote on Eurogamer is almost without context.
Following lots of games industry news head scratching yesterday the CEO of Xi3, Jason A. Sullivan, has made a statement to try and clear up the now muddied waters of the Valve/Xi3 relationship.
“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 Sullivan. “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”.
Sullivan also stated that he was asked by Gabe Newell not to disclose any further info about the two company’s relationship to the press. “We have honored that request and will continue to do so” he added.
Explaining the Lombardi quote
Turning to discuss some of press misconceptions, Sullivan then said “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”.
Valve or no Valve – Piston can run Steam
“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,” explained Sullivan. He went on to say that the Piston may well be a more capable platform than the official Steam Box “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...”
Continuing his lengthy statement Jason A. Sullivan talked about the Piston and Windows; “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”.
Bone of contention
Now we see some intercompany relationship cracks start to appear; “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”. Sullivan added that this will be a big difference between Piston and other Steam Boxes. Steam will only be one as important as the user wishes it to be with the Piston. Perhaps Sullivan thinks that this extra flexibility will be enough to justify the pricing strategy Xi3 has in mind. Apparently Xi3 has been “amazed” at the amount of pre-orders it has received for the Piston so far (until 17th March with SXSW $100 discount).
Sullivan concluded his Xi3/Valve relationship statement with a casual gauntlet toss; “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.”
Is the Xi3 Piston console more attractive if paired with Windows? At least this accounts for another $100 or so of the unexpectedly high price.