Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo dominate the console gaming space, and that’s a sentence I probably could have typed at any time in the last decade or two. But every now and then a company decides to try to take them on… sometimes with a cheaper, more accessible alternative and sometimes with a platform that basically slaps custom software on a small gaming PC.

None have really made much of a dent in the console (or Windows PC gaming) market.

But that hasn’t discouraged the folks at Slightly Mad Studios, the developers of popular racing games including Project Cars. Founder Ian Bell has been tweeting for the past week about an upcoming console called the ad Box that he says will be “the most powerful console ever built” when it launches… in three years.

The promise is that it’ll support 4K gaming and virtual reality at 60 fps or higher. But the specs haven’t been finalized. the case design hasn’t been chosen (the images i this post are all concepts Bell shared on Twitter), and even if the company does release a game console more powerful than anything on the market today will it be competitive with next-gen hardware from the big three?

And then there’s the primary reason nobody else has really cracked this space: a game console is only as good as the games it runs.

It costs a lot of money to develop the kind of games that people are willing to buy an expensive console to play. It’s unclear why developers would invest that time and energy into making their games available for the Mad Box.

Bell says Slightly Mad will offer a cross-platform game engine to developers that they can use to export games for PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and the Mad Box with “almost one click.” But the company still has to convince developers to use it.

But maybe there’s another way. Part of the reason Valve’s Steam Machines initiative stalled was that after the company developed a gaming-centric, Linux-based operating system to run on desktop computers… potential buyers quickly realized that most PC games were still Windows-only.

A growing number of developers have started to support Linux… but Windows still has the lion’s share of support from game makers (and gamers… there’s sort of a chicken and egg problem here).

But Valve launched a new tool that lets users run some Windows games on Linux using Steam Play even if the developers never officially added Linux support. It’s not a perfect solution — not every game works. But it did dramatically increase the number of games that are theoretically playable on Linux computers.

So if Slightly Mad can do something similar and ensure that gamers will be able to play titles that haven’t specifically been designed for this console then maybe… just maybe it could sell. But so far that hasn’t really worked for Steam Machines.

Anyway, like the headline says, it’s probably too early to call this product vaporware — at this point it’s really more of an idea and a promise. But I’ll be curious to see whether it goes anywhere in the coming years.

via PC World and Variety

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7 replies on “It’s probably too early to call the Mad Box game console vaporware, right?”

  1. Slightly Mad Studios? Oh right the guys that used Nintendo press to get support for Project Cars then announced it wasn’t coming to the Wii U despite showing it running on the console.

  2. Competition would be healthy for the industry, but my cynicism kicks in and says this will likely be OUYA 2.0. To be competitive, this would need to garner third party support while offering something the other 3 contenders do not. Not impossible, but not an easy feat

  3. Competitive semi-customs still cost tens of millions (see Subor Z custom ryzen 2400 with “vega 24” IGP deal). 7 nm will only make it worse in 2022.
    While it’s already incredible that SMS will have funds to mass-produce harfware, even semi-customs are out there.

    So, it’s either COTS x86 or COTS ARM.
    In the former case see Steam machines (and despite Valve’s hapless development of SteamOS, it’s very easy to do worse).
    In the latter some of the claims won’t be fulfilled. Also, 3.5 years is an eternity in ARM years.

    I won’t even touch the software side.
    I think it’s neverware.

        1. I’m amazed by the number of odd acronyms an average American must memorize not to feel out of the loop.

  4. If it is supposed to come out in three years it should support 8K and 120mhz refresh rate. DOA

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