We all knew a 'Steam Box' of some sort was coming – Valve boss Gabe Newell recently said as much – but exactly what that mysterious console-cum-PC would look like or how indeed it would stack up against the competition, little was known. CES 2013 has already given us one or two shock announcements, but one alluding to Valve's much-discussed Steam-based home console is certainly the best of the bunch as yet.

Because while its difficult to make out at this point in time exactly how deep Valve's involvement with the development of Xi3's gaming system “optimised for Steam gameplay in Big Picture mode” runs, Valve has at least confessed to investing in the Utah-based start-up. Whether this is the 'Steam Box' or instead one of many up and coming modular PCs built to take advantage of Steam's newly-unveiled big-screen cousin 'Big Picture' is unclear. What we do know is that Xi3's in-development system (codenamed 'Piston') is based on the company's own X7A modular system; itself comprising of a quad-core processor, up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a 1TB SSD and support for up to three monitors. That particular model comes in at $999, though neither Xi3 or Valve has been forthcoming about price, release date or specs for the 'Piston' quite yet.

Having recently put its faith in a campaign on popular crowd-funding site Kickstarter to raise money for future modular PCs (and unfortunately proving unsuccessful), Valve's involvement, however slight, in Xi3 is intriguing to say the least. With a commitment to re-shape the PC market with its own-brand of PCs, Xi3 is at least looking at PC hardware from the same perspective as Valve: easily-upgradeable, eco-friendly and small form factor PCs with a life cycle more reminiscent of home consoles, and built from the ground-up for the Steam platform.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era for Xi3,” said Xi3 president and CEO Jason Sullivan. “This new development stage product will allow users to take full-advantage of their large high-definition TV displays for an amazing computer game experience. As a result, this 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." The Steam Box? Maybe, just maybe.

Source: PR Newswire 

UPDATE: Polygon now reports a "Valve official" has indicated the company is in talks with other hardware and content developers throughout the week of CES 2013, showcasing "multiple" hardware prototypes. It seems contrary to popular belief, the 'Steam Box' is a brand name rather than a singular product.

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