Gaming on the Mac has always been a sore topic for most gamer and users of the platform, as there hasn’t always been support from game studios and developers, and the topic of gaming on the Mac has always been taken as sort of a joke by most serious gamers.
However, lately a few things have changed with the Mac, like the launch of Steam for Mac and the Mac App Store, which have made things a bit different. Has it changed things much or is Mac gaming still stuck in the past? Let’s take a look.
The Elephant in the Room
So, why did this happen? Several reasons, and the answer may vary depending on who you ask. First off, the user base for Mac OS users didn’t used to be considered a relevant enough number to dedicate the resources to make a game specifically for it. There were already enough platforms out there that developers need to adapt and port their games to.
But there’s also the resource issue: Macs have always been powerful machines, but they didn’t use to come with video cards suitable for high-profile gaming. With newer Macs this hasn’t really been an issue as they tend to come better equipped out of the box. You could argue that both of these problems aren’t valid arguments anymore, as the Mac user base has grown in recent years and the specifications of most Macs nowadays make them suited for gaming; so what’s holding us from getting our hands on new big-profile games to play on our Macs?
The New Ways of Gaming
Now, gaming on the Mac (and even on consoles and other platforms) seems to be going the mobile way, which is based on small games that you can easily pick up and leave after a few minutes, but that urge you to come back and continue playing them time after time. You can go on the Mac App Store and find in the most sold apps a handful of games that you might recognize from the iOS Store, such as Angry Birds and Flight Control.
This goes to prove that “casual” games have found a home in the Mac App Store, much like they did in the iOS App Store before that. They don’t require as much time or resources to be developed and developers profit not by pricing their games highly, but by making small enough games that go by the dollar but continue to sell thousands of copies months after they are released. I think we’ve all learned from Rovio, the Angry Birds developers, that there really is an opportunity to make big money on mobile (now even adapted to other platforms) gaming.
So far I’ve told you nothing that you didn’t already know. Let me get to the point: the other day as I was browsing the Mac App Store, I realized that, outside of the casual games, a lot of the “Most Popular Games” and also the most sold apps are old games that have just found their way into the Mac App Store.
Games as old as Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, and the first 3D Grand Theft Auto tiles; which range from 3 to almost 10 years old. Don’t get me wrong, I love most of these games and when I saw them at the App Store my first reaction was “I would love playing Vice City all over again”, but it also made me reflect on the kind of gaming market that Apple and the developers putting these games out are aiming for, especially within the App Store.
Let’s not forget that these are all games that have sequels already out, which can’t be played on the Mac yet (but probably will in another 3 years, if we’re lucky). So, yes, there are a handful of newer games out there like Civilization V, but the most sold games remain the older ones. Why is that? Who is buying them? Is it gamers like me who want to revisit old great games for nostalgic reasons? Or is it actual new customers that haven’t tried these old games out, perhaps because they didn’t even know they existed?
There has been a lot of talk this year that the future looks bright for Mac gaming, especially with platforms like Steam taking the Mac as a more serious market for business. But even with Steam, the catalogue looks pretty much the same: very few truly new games with a lot of casual cheap games and a handful of old classics thrown in. And that’s not even counting the fact that the number of available games for Mac in Steam is much smaller than those available for the PC.
Perhaps it’s too late for Apple to make a move within this market, perhaps the ship has already sailed for them when it comes to gaming. They didn’t embrace it as a serious thing in the past, and now that they’re trying to catch up with it, things are looking pretty slow.
It seems like it may take a lot of time for games to really start coming out for the Mac platform at the same time as they do for each other relevant platform. In the meantime, I’ll stick with my consoles and revisiting good old Vice City.