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The Piston Steam Box will start at US$1000

Xi3 is taking pre-orders for the Piston PC, its so-called Steam Box, for shipping by "holidays 2013".

Xi3 is taking pre-orders for the Piston PC, its so-called Steam Box, for shipping by "holidays 2013".

The Xi3 Piston. (Credit: Xi3)

Xi3 first showed off the Piston back at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year. It was touted as being specifically designed for the Big Picture variant of Steam, and Valve was said to have made some investment in Xi3.

Since then, the concept of a Steam Box has expanded, with Gabe Newell recently saying that prototypes of the console-style PC would be available in three to four months, and Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward showing off a mysterious PC, which used the Xi3 form factor, via its Twitter and Facebook.

Xi3 has now used the South by South West (SXSW) Festival to announce that it will be taking pre-orders for the Piston, although the device itself won't actually ship until "holidays 2013" — that is, until the end of the year.

The pre-order page allows you to "design your own Piston", although this seems limited to just choosing the size of the SSD. Currently, a Piston starts at US$999 for the default model (128GB SSD), up to US$1749 for the 512GB version. Until 17 March, there's a US$100 discount on pre-orders.

The pre-order process has begun so early because Xi3 is, according to founder and CEO Jason A Sullivan, "seriously concerned that [it] will not be able to meet the demand for Piston consoles", given the "amount of awards, media attention and gamer interest" the device has gathered since CES.

Curiously, the press release about the Piston makes no mention of Valve or Steam, instead stating that the Piston will "deliver the beauty and small size of consoles, with the upgradeability of computers".

It's unclear if this means that the partnership between Valve and Xi3 has shifted in focus, or that Valve is concentrating on its own work on the Steam Box prototype.