Let the Steam Box speculation begin. Valve is investing in computer hardware, and they're showing it off this week.
A company called Xi3Corporation is developing the hardware (whose chassis you can see above), which they say is designed to play Steam games on big-screen TVs. They say they've received an investment from Valve, and that the machine will be shown off at both Xi3 and Valve's booths this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Here's the press release:
Xi3Corporation today announced a development stage system optimized for computer gameplay on large high-definition television monitors.
Housed in the uniquely shaped, grapefruit-size Xi3® Modular™ Computer chassis, this new development stage product is being showcased this week at the 2013 International CES trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada in booth #20425 in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Xi3's new development stage product is designed specifically to support both Steam® and its Big Picture™ mode for residential and LAN party computer gaming on larger high-def screens.
With more than 50 million subscribers around the world, Steam is the digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications/community platform from Valve Corporation. Big Picture mode allows members to access and play games through Steam on any connected high-definition television display/monitor.
"Today marks the beginning of a new era for Xi3," said Jason A. Sullivan , founder, President and CEO of Xi3. "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."
Xi3 also announced today it has received an investment from Valve Corporation. Xi3's new development stage computer game system is also being showcased in Valve's booth (#25730) at CES 2013. No additional details about Xi3's new system or Valve's investment in Xi3 will be released at this time.
A few weeks ago, Valve boss Gabe Newell told me that living-room-friendly PC packages sold by both Valve and third-party companies will be available in 2013.
UPDATE - Engadget have got their hands on the prototype unit, code-named Piston, and while specifics were hard to come by, they report that that the unit has a quad-core chip and can support up to 1TB of storage space. It will also allow upgrades, as the motherboard is modular.