Xi3 Piston maker counters Valve claim over unofficial Steam Box, issues stark message to Gabe Newell

"So Gabe, it's up to you. The ball is in your court."

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The Xi3 Piston, not backed by Valve, apparently.

Yesterday Valve said it wasn't involved with the Xi3 Piston, dubbed the unofficial Steambox, in any way.

Now, amid growing confusion, the people behind the $1000 Piston have had their say - and in the process have disputed Valve's vision for gaming in the living room.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2013 Xi3 Corporation, a company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, announced the Piston with a press release that said Valve had not only backed the console but invested in it.

The Piston was dubbed the unofficial Steam Box because it had, supposedly, been "designed specifically" with Steam and Big Picture Mode in mind, and was shown off to press at both Valve and Xi3's CES booths.

The message at the time was clear: Valve had sanctioned a number of third-party Steam Boxes while working on their own.

The story took a confusing twist earlier this week after Xi3 launched pre-orders for the Piston. Valve's Doug Lombardi issued Eurogamer a statement that distanced the Valve maker from the console and suggested Valve's interest with Xi3 had ended.

"Valve began some exploratory work with Xi3 last year," Lombardi told us, "but currently has no involvement in any product of theirs."

Lombardi's statement left some wondering whether Xi3 had overplayed its association with Valve and Steam in a bid to garner more attention for the Piston.

So, what's going on?

Last night, Jason A. Sullivan, founder, president and CEO of Xi3 Corporation, issued Eurogamer an impassioned statement on the matter. In it, he insists Xi3 did receive an investment from Valve, claims he was asked by Valve to build the product specifically for them and suggests Valve may reignite its interest at some point in the future.

The statement is reproduced in full below.

"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.

"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."

Xi3's statement addresses a number of points regarding Valve's involvement with the Piston, but an important question remains: why did Valve end its involvement in the Piston after seemingly backing it wholeheartedly at CES in January?

Whatever the truth, both companies are moving forward with their products. The Piston is due out this Christmas and Valve reckons its own, official Steam Box, will be ready to prototype in a couple of months.

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