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Founder and CEO Ian Bell Announces Departure from Slightly Mad Studios

Ian Bell, who founded Slightly Mad Studios more than a decade ago, has announced that he is leaving the company.

It’s been a rocky past couple of years for game developer Slightly Mad Studios. The third installment of their successful Project CARS series, along with a licensed game adaption of the Fast & Furious movie franchise, were released in 2020 to tepid reviews. More recently, development work on the mobile version of the Project CARS series was shut down. And now, CEO Ian Bell is departing the company.


Slightly Mad Studios, which was purchased by Codemasters in late 2019, was founded in 2009. Best known in the sim racing world for their work on the Project CARS franchise, SMS also brought us Need for Speed: Shift, Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends, and Red Bull Air Race among others.

What Ian’s departure means for the future of the studio remains to be seen. As CEO, his vision for the company he started more than a decade ago strongly shaped the organization’s focus. The award-winning Project CARS game series trended away from its Community Assisted Racing Simulator theme over time, specifically in the most recent installment, to the dismay of many fans of the series. We’ll have to wait and see whether the new ownership and management structure will mean a return to the original intent of the series.

Also unknown is what lies ahead for Bell. His Twitter handle at the moment simply reads “Free Entity. Look out for TherapyGlobal”. Although many releases under the SMS name have been polarizing, his marketing and business development skills have been instrumental in building a successful business out of a niche passion, so expect to see Ian’s name in the gaming industry again soon.

Let us know your thoughts on this move. Was Bell the linchpin that made Slightly Mad as successful as it has been, or does the move away from his leadership hold the possibility of better things to come?
About author
Mike Smith
I have been obsessed with sim racing and racing games since the 1980's. My first taste of live auto racing was in 1988, and I couldn't get enough ever since. Lead writer for RaceDepartment, and owner of SimRacing604 and its YouTube channel. Favourite sims include Assetto Corsa Competizione, Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, Automobilista 2, DiRT Rally 2 - On Twitter as @simracing604

Comments

Well, he certainly achieved plenty in his time and shaped a good portion of the sim landscape we see today. Yes, he's not 100% responsible for any game, but he's definitely been instrumental in many key titles.

Yes, Project CARS 3 wasn't for me (though I thought PC2 was excellent if flawed), but GTR2 is probably the game (apart from Football Manager) I've sunk more time into than any other - until ACC it was the last title to really cover a sportscar series with real depth - and even today AMS2 and Raceroom both benefit from paths he's trodden.

Divisive figure on forums but you couldn't accuse him of not interacting players and defending his team. And, ultimately, isn't motorsport history full of abrasive but strong-willed characters willing to try doing things differently?
 
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Well, can't argue he achieved plenty in his time and shaped a good portion of the sim landscape we see today. Yes, he's not 100% responsible for any game, but he's definitely been instrumental in many key titles.

Yes, Project CARS 3 wasn't for me (though I thought PC2 was excellent if flawed), but GTR2 is probably the game (apart from Football Manager) I've sunk more time into than any other - until ACC it was the last title to really cover a sportscar series with real depth - and even today AMS2 and Raceroom both benefit from paths he's trodden.

Divisive figure on forums but you couldn't accuse him of not interacting players and defending his team. And, ultimately, isn't motorsport history full of abrasive but strong-willed characters willing to try doing things differently?
Wow I didn’t realise he was involved with GTR2. It’s by some distance my favourite sim ever made.

I too had a lot of time for pc2 as a fun alternative to the more intense sims.
 
earned some unexpected pocketmoney by supporting / crowdfunding C.A.R.S. which turned into Project Cars the very first week it came out. Could still kick myself for investing only 10 Euros, I think over the years I got somewhere between 150 and 250 Euros back on the initial investment, should have gone for the 10,000 Euro investment that was on offer as well ;) fun fact: never bought a copy of the game, though, as development clearly went in a direction I did not support. Still rmemeber testing the very first car (Gumpert Apollo) on some fancy mountainous test track. Don't even know if either of them made it into the final release.
 
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Wow I didn’t realise he was involved with GTR2. It’s by some distance my favourite sim ever made.

I too had a lot of time for pc2 as a fun alternative to the more intense sims.
Ian was one of the founder of SimBin Studios when they were just a modding team 20 years ago (GTR 2002 mod for F1 Challenge 99-02) and then when they became a proper videogame dev. In 2005 he founded Blimley! Games, which assets and stuff goes sold to SMS in 2009 after 2008 bankruptcy of TenTacle Studios.
 
Ian was one of the founder of SimBin Studios when they were just a modding team 20 years ago (GTR 2002 mod for F1 Challenge 99-02) and then when they became a proper videogame dev. In 2005 he founded Blimley! Games, which assets and stuff goes sold to SMS in 2009 after 2008 bankruptcy of TenTacle Studios.
I didn't know that. I was a massive fan of the 99-02 mod too.
 
The pcars sequels are the best example to show what happens when the CEO Ian Bell is resistant of critism. They could made Pcars 2 to an epic game but closed their eyes and ears but not their big mouth. The Devs were the best Lemminge I ever met.

AMS2 is on a good way, hope REIZA will take advice from their customer
 
Obviously a great project leader for pcars but with a bad long term vision. pcars2 should have become a long term product, as rfactor2, raceroom, with support and updates along the way, financed by DLCs. Pcars3 should have been named differently, creating a brand obviously made to compete with forza and gran turismo.

I wonder what codemasters will do with this franchise. Let it die and using the madness engine and the sms employees for its franchises or creating others ? The madness being far superior to CM's ego engine, in a few years, the F1, Grid, Dirt games will probably be on the madness engine. Not sure any time will be left to create new licences or to make a PC4, AMS2 being already on that market (although, for the moment, pcars2 cars list is still better).

What CM could decide, but with a risk, pcars2 being a game polarizing the sim community, would be fixing pcars2 (autoclutch, real weather, AI in the starting lap before the green flag...), updating it (physics of some cars), selling new content (more dirt tracks and cars, ice tracks, historic tracks,..). With a real vision and by taking in account what the customers had been asking for years, a good content DLC could be sold at the price of a new game (not 90euros!, something like 50 should be ok). I personnaly would like to race on pcars2 up to date, refined, and with new content. Something Ian Bell has never been able to understand, although all the other sim développement companies have understood years ago. And they are still arpund with their old games still being around and selling dlcs or memberships. Where is pcars? Where is the brand?
I hope CM will take the risk...
 
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Can see he started off with integrity, talent and passion - three things that gave us GTR2.
PC1 and PC2 were style over substance but could have worked with more time and effort... AMS2 (only now sorting it out).
PC3 - disastrous, void of the above three ingredients for GTR2 - crashed and written off. But he hung around to milk it as long as possible.
Taxi for Ian Bell!
 
He made some odd decisions that imo ruined pcars 1 & 2 & probably 3 but i didn't even bother with it. AMS has shown what it could have been. It was his game at the end of the day & was very much driven by making money more than a passion for making a great sim.
I wish him the best of luck.
 
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