Slightly Mad Studios, the minds behind the Project CARS franchise, announced that they’re getting into the hardware game with a brand new gaming console. Information is still thin on the ground surrounding the newly christened ‘Mad Box’, although company CEO Ian Bell has confirmed it will support VR headsets and 4K monitor output.

Update (January 4th, 2019): Slightly Mad Studios is now stating that Mad Box is dropping the 60 fps spec for VR headsets, and adopting 90 fps moving forward. Check out our more expansive piece covering this change, and a few more new developments including concept images and upcoming features.

Original Article (January 3rd, 2019): Mad Box is still in its early phases, with Bell telling Variety that the Xbox/PlayStation-style console should ship “around three years time.”

“It will support most major VR headsets and those upcoming and the specs will be equivalent to a ‘very fast PC 2 years from now’,” Bell told Variety. “We’re in early talks with manufacturers of components so we can’t say much more right now other than we have the designs specced out in detail.”

There’s no pricing on the table yet, although Bell contends it should be “competitive with upcoming console prices.”

While crowdfunding isn’t off the table entirely, Bell maintains the studio has lined up “multiple investors already offering the required funding […] to see the product to completion, but it’s still early days and we’re looking at the best offers right now.”

So far, that’s all we can say for sure.

Confusion Around FPS (see update)

Billing it as “the most powerful console ever built,” Bell tweeted out late last night that Mad Box will support VR headsets with 60 fps rendering, 4K monitor rendering, and will arrive with a free game engine so developers can create for Mad Box, presumably the company’s own Madness Engine.

After some prodding by the VR community, Bell attempted to clear up some confusion surrounding the fact that 60 fps VR rendering really doesn’t cut it when talking about the “most powerful console.” After all, PSVR game developers already have a hard 60 fps base requirement to publish on the PlayStation Store; that’s effectively doubled in the console to 120 fps for smoother viewing in-headset. That said, some PSVR apps do actually display at a native 90 fps and even fewer at a native 120 fps when played using PS4 Pro.

What resulted was slightly more confusing, as Bell later tweeted that 60 fps is somehow a feature for a console with three years left to go before productization, based on the reasoning that it’s 60 fps “per eye.”

Variety attempted to clarify the “per eye” statement with Bell via email, receiving word that Mad Box will actually support 120 fps for VR headsets. Great news, right? The confusion however persists as Bell responds to Twitter user ‘Galiforniano’ by saying that “60 plus 60 is always 120 … No matter who says it.”

We’ve reached out to Slightly Mad Studios to clarify that statement, and will update when we hear back. (see update above)

In the meantime, this is most likely the source of the “60 plus 60” figure: the industry at large measures frames per second globally when in reference to VR output, and not according to what the rendering pipeline needs to do to in order to make that happen. This is because VR headset users will only perceive 60 fps even if the hardware must effectively render twice the frames split across two displays to serve up a stereoscopic view—resulting in the possibly unorthodox 120 fps clarification from Bell.

Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows VR headsets feature panels clocked at 90Hz, something that VR-capable PCs of today can sometimes struggle to fill during more graphically demanding scenes. An overwhelming majority of PC VR developers build apps designed to either match or exceed that refresh rate in order to appear smooth and comfortable to the user; a game rendering at 60 fps (globally) is the bare minimum for a comfortable experience, although some users notice screen flicker at this rate.

Valve Reveals Top Selling VR Games on Steam in 2018

This is provided of course the console in question doesn’t use some form of reprojection such as Valve’s Motion Smoothing or Oculus’ Asynchronous Spacewarp. Both techniques cut the framerate down to 45 fps when the system can’t match the headset’s native refresh rate, and bump it back to 90 fps with the addition of synthetically generated frames to keep things moving smoothly. A similar technique, or even a simple doubling of the frames could alleviate this, although it’s difficult to call that the result of “the most powerful console.”

If Slightly Mad can somehow bring a VR-ready gaming console to market pushing greater frame rates than 60 fps (synthetically or otherwise), replete with a strong list of top VR titles and a reasonable price tag in comparison to an equally specced gaming PC, it may be an attractive option for console gamers looking to explore the world of PC VR headsets—they feature higher resolutions and better room-scale tracking capabilities than the current gen PSVR to say the least.

We’re hoping to learn more in the coming months about the game studio’s first dive into the console hardware market. However you slice it though, it’s certain to be slightly mad.

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  • MosBen

    Ask Steam machines how easy it is to break into the console world with consoles built from off the shelf parts.

    • Well, there were waaaaay too many Steam consoles to begin w/ and a crappy OS.

  • Jack Liddon

    60fps per eye? Really instilling confidence in this new console…

  • NooYawker

    So they’re going the overhype bullshit route for publicity.

    The success of a console has nothing to do with power and everything to do with exclusives. PS has the best exclusives, hell even their VR games made it to the top.

    • JesuSaveSouls

      Yeah but proprietary makes it impossible for after market software and mods like vorpx and mother mod for alien iso.

  • Cleeve

    So if my gaming monitor is 60 FPS, I’m experiencing 120 FPS because I have two eyes… right? :P

    • MaXyM

      And if some has three monitors, it’s 180fps in total. what a delusion

  • Niklas Fritzell

    Lo and behold, the next Phantom!

  • Andrew Jakobs

    I have no real confidence in them when they think 60fps per eye is 120fps…
    Also having a free engine isn’t anything special, especially if you don’t know what the engine itself is capable of and even more important, how the tools are to create content and workflows etc. You need people who are familiar with the engine, and that’s where the money goes, not the engine itself. Also the engine hasn’t been battletested with a variety of gametypes.
    Great a new console, but if the bigger publishers stay away from it, you won’t attract many gamers..

  • gothicvillas

    3 yrs from now and they target 60 frames lol I expect full holodeck no less

  • JesuSaveSouls

    Now if it turns out to be as equal in price to a pc,why not just buy a pc ? If it does cost in the low end as a 300 ps then that is cool.

    • Arcticu Kitsu

      Some people just want pre-built stuff to cut down on hassle. It’s why there’s people buying consoles over computers because it’s easier for them. Why do people buy a PS4, Switch, and etc? Preferences and easier for people.

      • JesuSaveSouls

        No mods usually and proprietary.If affordable great but if the same price or more than a pc then no.

      • Hivemind9000

        Well, price is a major factor. Consoles are typically sold at manufacturing cost or less, and the creators (Sony, Microsoft et al) make their money from software licensing/sales. Here in Australia an XBox One X is around AU$650. A decent 4K gaming rig would set you back at least twice that amount (mine cost me AU$3k). I think that’s what our resident Jesus freak was getting at…

  • MaXyM

    1. how many bugs their recent products (Project Cars 1 and 2) have,
    2. how many of them have been justified and never fixed because has been literally called ‘non game breakers’ even if obviously don’t work as expected (or at all)
    3. lack of support
    4. finally they abandon products in unfinished/unfixed state,

    I can’t even imagine a reliability of this console. But since a lot of Mr Bell’s promises ended up vaporized, maybe the console will share their fate.

  • Dman

    Everyone is making a big deal about the 60 fps per eye thing and I agree as of now we need more than that for a good vr experience. However we also don’t know what consul builders and component builders know about the vr tech 3 years from now.

    In that time there will most likely be some amazing vr innovation that is in the works now that will give a great experience at a frame rate of that level.

    We just don’t know and I for one am exited to here about a new type of vr console and is great news for the vr community in the whole with hope for the future

  • Firestorm185

    Someone needs to be updated on our new ways of doing math, it seems. xDDD

  • novainc

    Well, you might not get 120hz smoothness out of 60fps “per eye”, but having the device display 60 (true) frames per eye actually requires 120 individual frames to be rendered, as the pictures for your left and right eye aren’t duplicated pictures. Because the 60 frames per eye need to be rendered individually, you are actually displaying 120 individual frames per second.

  • oompah

    I hope the console is so small that u can keep in ur pocket
    so that u directly connect ur headset with it & with USB-C

  • Peter Hansen

    So they got their hands on a large supply of out-mustered mining cards at a bulk price and got a “genious” idea. Is that it?

  • Errr… OG PS4 says hi with some vr games running 120fps that’s 240fps in bell talk!

  • 4K 90 fps VR in 2022? Wow, this seems really an amazing result -_-

  • TheHitman1982

    This thing sounds like DOA vaporware already.

  • AnONeamus

    Way to go, chump! The first rule of vapourware products that are minimum 3 years away is you don’t give out specs of any kind!