Ian Bell, founder and public face of Slightly Mad Studios, has announced that he’s leaving the company he created back in 2009.
It’s the latest twist in what’s been a pretty chaotic two years for SMS. The studio was first snapped up by racing game specialist developer and publisher Codemasters in a surprise deal in November 2019. Even more surprising was Take-Two’s attempted acquisition of Codemasters just a year later, sparking EA to step in with an $1.2bn takeover.
SMS can trace its origins back two decades, to a small team — including Bell — developing a GT racing mod called GTR2002 for EA’s F1 2002 title. From there the studio evolved into SimBin and then Blimey! Games, both helmed by Bell himself, before becoming Slightly Mad in 2009.
The studio’s first two titles under this name were both entries in the Need for Speed series, with Need for Speed: Shift in 2009 and Shift 2: Unleashed in 2011 — both published by present-day owner EA. After that though, SMS moved onto probably the game series best associated with the studio: Project CARS.
For a while, the series was the third corner of the popular sim-racing hat, frequently entering into discussions about whether Forza, Gran Turismo, or Project CARS was the best. However, Project CARS 3 proved a pretty divisive title, with its intention being as a “spiritual successor to Shift” rather than the more sim-focused Project CARS 2.
Speaking last December, Bell commented that PC3 was very much a case of “lesson learned” and that Project CARS 4 would be “nads to the wall” in terms of realism. However, it now seems like Bell won’t get to see this come to fruition.
Bell himself has also been something of a divisive character, thanks in part to some of the bombastic language employed around SMS products. Whether it’s the Project CARS series, Fast and Furious: Crossroads, or the ultimately mythical “MadBox” console, one could never accuse him of being shy or boring.
Announcing his departure from SMS on Twitter, Bell stated:
According to his updated social media profiles, Bell will make a quite a left-field move, into the area of mental health. Stating that he is a British Psychological Society-registered psychologist, his new venture is aimed at providing therapy for those who cannot afford it.
SMS meanwhile will likely continue to focus on Project CARS 4, assisted in part by the simultaneous announcement that it has terminated its Gamevil-developed mobile title Project CARS Go.