Can Anyone Break the Gaming Console Duopoly?

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It all started with the Magnavox Odyssey, a strange box that could be connected to a TV at home and run some games like tennis, hockey, and their likes. Then, the first truly successful arcade game came along: it was called Pong, and it took the world by storm. Seeing their success, companies flooded the market with consoles of all kinds. Then, the second generation of consoles arrived, this time with chips and cartridges, and this led to the emergence of even better gaming hardware to invade our living rooms. These times had winners (like Atari and Nintendo) and losers (like Magnavox and Coleco). Actually, the entire history of video game consoles is filled with one brand leading (usually Nintendo and Sega) and others failing to keep up. That until Sony broke into the market with its PlayStation. It was mostly downhill from there for most traditional console makers, especially after Microsoft joined the fight with its Xbox. Today, we have only three major platforms on the market: Sony and Microsoft competing for the same market segment with their eighth-generation machines, and Nintendo going its own way, as usual. Or, in short, we have a duopoly (plus Nintendo).

Now the two big names are preparing to release the next generation of consoles: Sony plans to introduce the PlayStation 5 (or whatever it will be called) by 2021, and Microsoft plans to launch its Xbox Two next year. At the moment, it doesn’t seem plausible for a third “player” to enter the market and compete with these two, especially after others have tried (think Steam machines, for example) and failed. Except for one brave company with a suggestive name: Slightly Mad Studios with its Mad Box console.

The Mad Box video game console is currently at an “I’ll believe it when I see it” stage. All the world knows about it comes from the announcements made earlier this year by Slightly Mad Studios CEO Ian Bell on Twitter. According to his tweets, the company plans to create its own video game console that will be “the most powerful console ever built”, capable of running games in 4K at up to 120FPS. The console should have hardware with the capabilities of a “very fast PC 2 years from now”, and be compatible with all major VR headsets running games at 60FPS per eye. Perhaps the most important announcement coming from Bell was about the company’s intention to create its own video game engine that will be offered free to video game developers, allowing them to deploy their games quickly and easily on any other platform, including PC.

Slightly Mad’s intentions to attack the two big names in the gaming console market is definitely ambitious (and slightly mad, according to some). The Mad Box may even fall before it even has a chance to emerge due to the recent announcement of “Stadia”, the cloud-powered game streaming service Google has announced earlier this year that may banish gaming consoles from our living rooms for good. Still, in the spirit of “competition is good for the end-user”, wouldn’t it be great if someone came and broke the Microsoft-Sony duopoly?