What just happened? Codemasters, the folks behind Dirt, Grid, and the official Formula 1 franchise recently bought Slightly Mad Studios, known for their hardcore racing simulator: Project CARS, making it the former racing company’s second major acquisition after buying Driveclub developer Evolution studios back in 2016.
Before getting into the official announcements from Codemasters and Slightly Mad Studios, let’s take a brief drive through the latter’s history.
Founded in 2009, Slightly Mad Studios made their entry into the world of racing games with Need for Speed: Shift. The developer also worked on the game’s second installment, giving EA’s franchise a dose of simulator racing as opposed to its usual arcadey gameplay.
Understandably, the realistic, hardcore setting of the Shift games didn’t suit Need for Speed’s playful image that was firmly established by the likes of Hot Pursuit, Underground and Most Wanted titles, and it didn’t sit well with the game’s main audience (the Helmet cam in Shift 2 was amazing, though).
Slightly Mad Studios went on to make their first original racing game called Project CARS or Community Assisted Racing Simulator, which, as evident by the name, was developed through community funding and released in 2015. A sequel came out later in 2017 and earned favorable (if not exceptional) reviews from critics and gamers alike.
Earlier this year, the company decided to get more ambitious and announced plans for the Mad Box, which it said would be the most powerful console when (and if) it comes out in around three years. A few concept images of the hardware were shared later by CEO Ian Bell, but the chances of its development seem slim at the moment.
The company withdrew its application for the Mad Box trademark in April this year, after a French games company ‘Madbox’ filed an opposition citing “likelihood of confusion on the part of the public.” Although a name change is not a big deal, things took a back seat after two investors pulled out of the project, following Google Stadia’s reveal.
There hasn’t been much talk around the console since then, and more importantly, it also didn’t get a mention in Slightly Mad’s recent acquisition by Codemasters.
“We are delighted to bring such an incredible racing game developer to the Codemasters family, and this unequivocally establishes us as a global powerhouse in the development of racing titles,” said Frank Sagnier, Codemasters CEO, adding that with the arrival of more streaming services and “the next generation of games consoles due in 2020, this is the perfect time for Codemasters to take its next step.”
“Our combined racing games portfolio is the envy of the industry and this new partnership will enable us to learn from each other, share resources and take advantage of emerging platforms and technology,” said Ian Bell.
As a result of this acquisition, Codemasters now owns the Project CARS brand and sees its workforce expand to 700 people. A third installment of the racing simulator is reportedly in development and will be released through its new publisher, whenever it comes out.