Slightly Mad Studios, the creators of the Project CARS franchise, announced earlier this week that they’re developing a VR-compatible gaming console called ‘Mad Box’. In a follow-up tweet, company CEO Ian Bell dubbed the project “the most powerful console ever built,” saying that Mad Box would deliver 60 fps VR rendering—decidedly a much lower number than VR enthusiasts are used to today. Now, Bell says the company has decided to up the frame rate to 90 fps.

“We’re going 90 per eye, 180 FPS internally,” Bell says in a tweet. “My CTO just called. We’re upping the specs already. It might cost a little bit more…”

By “180 FPS internally,” Bell is referring to the workload the hardware will need to perform in order to deliver the requisite 90 fps to the dual displays in standard PC VR headsets such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. While the phrasing is unorthodox and initially caused a fair bit of confusion when the console was first announced earlier this week, 90 fps is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of delivering the minimum of what VR users should expect to have a comfortable, immersive experience.

Bell says the console is tentatively slated to launch in about “3.5 years,” and that while it’s still too early for pricing, it’s aiming to be “competitive with upcoming console prices.”

To boot, Bell teased a few concept images today of Mad Box, which features a prominent ‘M’ shape in its design.

Image courtesy Slightly Mad Studios

Responding to more requests for information via Twitter, Bell fired off a slew of tweets today, saying the team isn’t considering a horizontal orientation, and that the support wings will include some sort of tech necessary to the console’s function—exactly what that is, we’re not sure.

“The Mad Box has a one press deployable carry handle, between the ‘m’s… It weighs very little and will talk to other Mad Boxes without cables,” Bell explains.

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Admittedly, Bell thinks the design is still a bit “too garish” for living rooms as it is now. After all, not everyone wants an RBG-tastic case sitting next to their TVs. The studio’s logo is also proudly emblazoned on the side.

An additional concept image shows what appears to be RGB-lit water cooling system, although Bell says the front panel panel has been blurred as to not give away the system’s prospective internals.

Image courtesy Slightly Mad Studios

Responding to a question concerning size, Bell says Mad Box will be “actually much smaller than it looks in those images.”

As far as concept images go, Mad Box is clearly aiming to make a statement; it’s certainly a far cry from the black living room-friendly boxes of today’s current console generation, tending to look more like a custom PC case. And just how the studio plans on setting Mad Box apart from a standard gaming PC, well, that remains to be seen as well.

In addition, Slightly Mad Studios maintains they’ll be offering “a cross platform engine that allows an ‘almost’ one click press to deploy to all major consoles,” with planned support for Xbox, PlayStation, Mad Box, and PC.

Mad Box will be the game studio’s first foray into hardware. Slightly Mad Studios is best known for their VR-compatible games Project CARS (2015) and Project CARS 2 (2017), not to mention a number of other conventional racing sims including Need for Speed: Shift (2009) and Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends (2011).

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  • Steve

    IMO, it’s too early to get excited about this. At this point it just sounds like they’re putting feelers out there to gauge interest. Plus, in 3.5 years, who knows what VR will look like then. Maybe Quest 2.0 will be coming out around that time making this thing obsolete or unnecessary (after all, I believe untethered VR without compromises is the ultimate goal anyways.)

    Well, in 3.5 years I wonder if we’ll remember this article and think, “Hey, what ever happen to that Mad Studios’ VR console?”

    • NooYawker

      Sounds like they basically saw all the money Magic leap got, and all the kickstarter campaigns and figured, HEY! A little bullshit can bring in a lot of money.

      • Steve

        LOL. I think you’re on to something.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      It’s not actually specifically targeted at VR.. It’ll be like the PS4/PS5, also capable to do VR.

  • This whole story sounds extremely suspicious.

    • FireAndTheVoid

      1. Original claim of a next-gen platform pushing 60 fps made no sense
      2. No one refers to 90 fps in VR as “180 fps internally”. Sounds like marketing nonsense.
      3. The things are huge (based on the relative fan size and water cooling loop), but he says that they are “actually much smaller than it looks in those images”
      4. “the support wings will include some sort of tech necessary to the console’s function”, what exactly?
      5. “It weighs very little” but it is watercooled
      6. It includes “a cross platform engine”. Like an emulator? No way the consoles with their exclusive titles will be onboard with that.

      • jj

        yeahhhhh after reading that im convinced its 100% vaporware. like someone else said just magic leap/crowdfunded by hype monitization all over again.

      • MaXyM

        Bell obviously has no idea what he is talking about. Lol.. CTO called him to say, they upped frequency? So want us to believe they decided about it today? Maybe in response to public feedback? lol. I would say, more likely CTO did correct him instead…

        This 90+90=180fps BS.. is not even marketing nonsense. It’s pure ignorance. No VR is rendered this way, because rendering whole scene for 2 displays at once is just cheaper performance-wise.

        It would be better if he learn about nV and AMD technologies increasing VR performance. Then his studio games could be more VR optimized.

        He is either feeding an audience with bullshits intentionally or is mentally handicapped. I don’t know what is worse

        • MaXyM

          BTW designers of those casing forgot about a dust which will accumulate in dips/waves. Congratulation ;)

      • Not to consider the debate on twitter when people told him “in VR you need 90 FPS, not 60” and he answered “yes, but here you have 60 FPS PER EYE” ahahahahah

      • Jistuce

        “No one refers to 90 fps in VR as “180 fps internally”. Sounds like marketing nonsense.”

        Honestly? It sounds like someone that used LCD shutter glasses in the past, and remembers having to set the monitor to twice the glasses’ refresh rate. I had a pair that came with a video card advertized as 120 Hz, to get 60 per eye.

        It isn’t nice to make fun of old people.

  • NooYawker

    It’s a PC in a walled garden?

  • JesuSaveSouls

    It looks cool but again if their boasting something beyond pc performance than its gonna cost more.These boxes need to be at the same price point as ps4 and xbox1.

    • jj

      and alone it looks alright, to some, but getting something that dynamic to fit in a living room is goign to be impossible. itll become an eye sore sooooo fast

      • FireAndTheVoid

        It looks awful IMO. There is a reason that consoles have muted designs – because garish doesn’t fit in the living room. Also, the things look huge – like a full-size tower with an even larger footprint. It definitely won’t win the wife’s approval.

        • jj

          exactly! lol i was trying to phrase that nicely(for once), but i think its hideous and would never put that in my living room even though my living room isnt organized or anything but this would just ruin all aesthetics.

  • eckehard

    Ich lach mich tot – in 3,5 Jahren haben wir vielleicht eine Konsole fertig – was soll der Scheiss ?? —entweder 2019 oder garnicht ……

  • JP

    If you look at modern consoles, they are small, sleek, have the power supply built in, act as a home theater system, are relatively inexpensive, and have controllers that feel great in the hand.

    In my personal opinion, Mad Studios will need to go through a few iterations before they get there. Once all of these features are in, modern consoles such as the xbox are missing the capability to use Steam games, VirtualLink, and a media center focus.

  • Bullshit.

  • Proof XR Lab

    Console indicates custom hardware and proprietary operating system with application store locked to the OS, and number of exclusive titles in the application store.

    How would a small game studio compete with Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s X-Box in this aspect?

    Or is this just a small form factor PC running windows?

    They should take a long hard look at Valve’s Steam boxes as a cautionary tale.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c14a035b81bbb33f6f00b3b68650c3a1b8b3e327c80e7b4b664b4f7ef75b392f.jpg

    • MosBen

      It doesn’t necessarily mean custom hardware. If I remember correctly, the original Xbox used more or less off the shelf parts. I think that that caused MS to run into cost problems down the road, which is why they went with custom parts in their subsequent machines, but I would just assume that a smaller outfit like these guys would be using off the shelf parts simply because they don’t have the capability to get custom designed parts.

      • Proof XR Lab

        COTS pc hardware would be difficult to package in that form factor; much easier using SOC or custom motherboard (for intel or amd cpu) but would be a substantial investment. Small form factor PC often have thermal throttling with high end GPU, its a difficult issue to resolve without more expense of custom cooling solution.

        • MosBen

          Yep, I basically agree with all of that. It’s really just not feasible for a small company to make a console that competes on both hardware and cost. The former results in a new version of Steam Machines, which were too expensive to be worthwhile for most gamers, and the latter is just the Ouya, which didn’t have any really impressive features to make anyone interested.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        If they can’t get custom designed boards, then you know there’s no way they can deliver a new console for the price consumers expect from a console, not even half…

        • MosBen

          Well, again, MS did it, but they’re MS, and these guys…well, aren’t. Normally, consoles are sold at a loss early one due to the high upfront costs of designing and manufacturing custom hardware, but as the life of the console goes on the cost to produce an individual unit drops, which allows the retail price price to fall and for the producer to turn a profit at the same time.

          With the original Xbox, MS was buying graphics cards from, I believe, Nvidia, and those costs didn’t go down over time, which became a problem for MS. So it’s totally possible to make a console with off the shelf parts, but it’s difficult and expensive to do. I don’t think that an outfit as small as Slightly Mad has the resources of technical experience to produce custom hardware, but they probably don’t have the funding to make a console with off the shelf parts. As others have said, this smells like a pitch for a crowdfunding effort that would implode, either as an intentional scam or just a failure due to inexperience.

  • MosBen

    I just couldn’t be more skeptical. If they’re using off the shelf parts, it’s going to be expensive. If they’re using custom parts, then I don’t believe their prospective launch date. That proposed design won’t fit in most people’s home theater shelving vertically. It’s supposedly built for VR, but it’s unclear to me whether they’re releasing an HMD to go with it, or if this talk about FPS per eye is just them more or less saying that it’ll have a powerful graphics card/chip. If that figure is just about the rendering power of the box, doesn’t it matter what it is your rendering? I’m fairly certain that my current, and older, PC could push 90 FPS per eye if it was rendering VR Pong.

    The specifics of hardware this far out don’t really matter, as they’re likely to change somewhat. What matters is presenting a sense that they know what they’re doing, and thus far it sounds like these guys got drunk over the holidays and came up with the idea of making a console that would be, like, the coolest.

  • FriendlyCard

    It’s not feasable to sell a console aka PC with high end specs, for roughly the same as a PS or Xbox console. Sony and Microshaft are already selling them at a loss. This is just not possible for this small company.

    I’d say, do NOT invest in a kickstarter/crowdfunder on this as it smells like a scam!

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Just for your information, the PS4 and the xbox one have both NOT been sold at a loss.. The PS3 and xbox 360 is different story.

      • FriendlyCard

        It’s been reported countless time that both Xbox One and PS4 are sold at a loss. And the PS4 Pro / Xbox X are sold at a substantial loss.

  • gothicvillas

    In a nutshell, they want to compete with ps5 and it’s psvr 2. Good luck there.

  • impurekind

    I still don’t really see who’s going to go for this to be honest, even if it ends up being kinda cool. People go for what they know and trust, and there’s already enough choices on the market to satisfy the vast majority of people looking for both consoles and PCs.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    That’s a VERY fugly design for a console.. And I don’t think they will actaully succeed, as I said earlier, support from third party is what you’ll need. A free engine isn’t getting you really support.

    • JustNiz

      Yes it really is hideous. I wish these hardware designers would finally get away from the idea that all hardcore gamers necessarily want is something that only looks appropriate in a 12 year old’s bedroom from the 1980’s. Also having that wide foot unnecessarily turns it into a space hog.

      • Hivemind9000

        I doubt a hardware designer has even been consulted in this process. Looks like a designer’s 3D render-gasm to me.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          Well, a designer with bad taste……….

  • Glenn Rubin

    Some of this Crowd funded nonsense is getting out of hand. Perfect opportunity and platform for scam artists to do their thing. This sounds like a bunch of B.S. for sure. Anyway talking about something that wouldn’t come to fruition in 3.5 years the way this tech is evolving is ridiculous. Stand alone headsets will most likely outperform what their talking about and this hyped up fantasy in a couple years.

  • JustNiz

    This is blatant bullshit. There’s no way they can quote an FPS it can achieve because they can’t possibly know what game or headset you’re running.

    • brandon9271

      Climbey

  • Ok, this was a funny story… thanks for letting me laugh Road To VR

  • Hivemind9000

    CEO: We’re doing another round of fund raising. What’s the craziest, most unlikely thing we can do to justify raising a billion dollars? Something completely outside out competence and expertise.
    DESIGNER: Let’s built the most powerful console that there ever did was! Here, look at this 3D render I made with my 12yo son!
    CEO: Sweet. That’s all I need. *snatches image*
    CTO: But what about the hardware specs, operating system, business model? How can we compete with Microsoft and Sony!?!
    CEO: What a buzz kill dude. Just leave it with me. I’ll just make specs up on Twitter and keeping doubling them until people stop asking questions. It’s called market research dumbass!
    CTO: …

  • Sky Castle

    Talk about trying to be too flashy at the cost of practicality. Those legs take up too much space. Why, just why…

    • brandon9271

      That’s so you can flip it over and useit as an end table. Keeps the wife happy

  • Bit soon for April.

  • Ethan

    Wings prolly charge controllers wirelessly

  • REP

    I’ll be happy if Mad Studio come out with an affordable racing simulator seat with wheel and all the proper movements. Today’s racing simulators are too expensive. So instead of doing a console,i would be happy to see a racing chair simulator.

  • Nothing to see here

    I too am going to release the most powerful console ever. It will be ten times as fast as today’s consoles and cost just $500! It will be ready in ten years. See how easy that was? Of course in ten years, 10x current console performance will be ho-hum. The console described in the story would be ho-hum compared to today’s PCs and next years consoles. In three years it will be a joke.

  • oompah

    I would prefer a console inside ur head
    i mean headset hah ha
    so that all u need to provide is
    POWER CORD
    its now possible
    headset + processor + 6dof + wifi +
    cooling to
    cool the headset as well as the human head
    in summers (a helmet with small AC )
    Where r the Japanese to make things smaller

  • Sion12

    I bet its a glorified prebuilt PC and/or its going to get cancel in 3 years

  • DaKangaroo

    For the visual design of the case, I’ll say this: Too often, companies play it safe, and insist on very boring designs to ‘not scare the horses’. But ya know, screw that noise, why not I say! Have your RGB lit case, and a giant M, and RGB lit internal cooling visible through a window, go for it, don’t tone it down.

    At least it gives the product a visually striking and unique design, it doesn’t have to be perfect, after some time looking at the product and getting use to it, any imperfection in the design will be washed over with ‘familiarity’.

    As for their goals, well, I say good luck to them, but it won’t be easy, if it’s possible at all. Let them try, more competition is always a good thing.

  • iThinkMyCatIsAFlea

    That “Mad Box” will never see the light of day. I mean, who is going to buy it? Console gamers? No chance. PC gamers? Highly unlikely. So who the hell is it aimed at?

    VR needs must play software not more bloody hardware.

  • Da Mo (JFlash)

    Sponge Bob – Man Ray