Slightly Mad Studios, best known for the Project Cars series and Need for Speed: Shift, is working on a video game console of its very own. As Variety reports, Slightly Mad CEO and founder Ian Bell announced this mystery console, the Mad Box, on Twitter today, promising 4K visuals, 60+ FPS with VR support, and a free game engine available for free to all developers.
Speaking with Variety, Bell clarified that the Mad Box will be a standalone system separate from Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo's lineups. However, "it will be a console as is the Xbox or PlayStation," he said, affirming the studio's intent to challenge the titans of gaming hardware. Despite its proposed performance, which would require powerful and expensive hardware, Bell said Mad Box pricing will be "competitive with upcoming console prices," whatever those turn out to be.
What is the Mad Box? It's the most powerful console ever built... It's literally 'Mad'... You want 4k, you want VR at 60FPS? You want a full engine for free to develop your games on it? You have it.January 2, 2019
"We think the industry is a little too much of a monopoly or a micro oligopoly," Bell told Variety. "We think competition is healthy and we have the required hardware contacts to be able to bring something epic to fruition based on our designs."
According to Bell, the Mad Box is still in pre-production, with Slightly Mad Studios currently hashing out production and other logistics with multiple potential partners. Bell said the Mad Box will release worldwide, including in some "areas that are, let's say, not particularly open to other vendors at this moment" (read: probably China). He also said it will launch in "around three years," and described it as boasting specs rivaling "a very fast PC two years from now."
If the Mad Box does indeed launch three years from now, it will likely be on the heels of PS5 and whatever Xbox Project Scarlett turns out to be. As a new and untried console, that would certainly put it in a tough spot. I can't help but think of the likes of the OUYA, or more pertinently, Valve's ill-fated Steam Machines (who remembers those). Quite frankly, I have no idea how Slightly Mad expects to deliver the quality of a high-end PC at the price point of a console, not to mention win over both users and developers in an already fragmented market, and do it sustainably. They really are promising the moon with this. That being said, I'd certainly love to see them pull it off.
Steam Machines really are a valuable reference point here. In this piece from the archives, we break down what made the things so weird.