“Games is one of the most popular things that folk do with their computers. Or at least it is if you have a PC. But if you've got a Mac, you're bang out of luck, 'cos there aren't any games to speak of. If you've got any aspirations of any sort of gaming, then a Mac is about as useful as a chocolate teapot...
So there's no games for Macs?
Yes, there are games for Macs. If you look in the right places. And that place is not on the sheves of high street games retail stores.
But granted, simply put, when the Mac's gaming range is lined up alongside that available for Windows or the various games consoles, it is dwarfed! Top titles will always appear on more popular formats first, whereas if a Mac version appears at all, it will usually be much later.
Few games get developed for Macs because games developers know games players don't buy Macs. And games players don't buy Macs because they know there are few games developed for it. Catch 22.
So much for any provocative accusation of Macs being 'toy' computers and PCs being 'proper' computers, er? But I digress...
Game porting and development
It's inevitable that for computer based games development, it's always going to happen first on the most popular platform. And that's Windows. As such, for a game to make it to the Mac, it will be ported rather than developed from scratch. That means development costs are reduced, but unfortunately, not as much as it could be.
Windows and OS X use very different development APIs. Windows development will usually utilise Microsoft's proprietary DirectX graphics APIs, whereas development on Macs will utilise their implementation of the cross-platform OpenGL graphics APIs. As such, porting, along with platform specific optimisation, is a lengthy, and therefore costly process.
Unless that game is guaranteed reasonable sales, there's very little to make it worthwhile. The end result is that inevitably, as things stand, few games make the cross platform transition. And those that do will often be ported on the cheap, and therefore produce poor results that are inferior to the Windows original.
So hopefully, that's the 'why' covered. Now the question is, should it matter to you? How important to you is gaming?
For some, gaming is a money-no-object obsession. These hard-core of gamers would think nothing of dropping huge sums of money on an upgrade to their already very powerful gaming rig, just to gain a few extra frames-per-second on the latest first-person shooter.
For someone of that level of gaming obsession, a Mac would be an unlikely choice. And not just for the number of games available. There's also issues with the hardware...
Games are the most power hungry of all software, and upgrading a PC to a standard that will do it justice, can be an expensive business. Particularly in the graphics card.
The problem with Macs here is that while the consumer level models of Mac do have more than acceptable graphics hardware for most users and uses including games unlike most other big box desktop PCs, their graphics hardware is integrated much like a laptop which means upgrading to better graphics hardware is not an option. Only the Mac Pro workstation has this ability.
However, even with the Mac Pro, drivers (the software to enable the computer to interface to this card) may not be available for OS X, or not as optimised for the same reasons most games aren't developed for Macs.
See also reason 2
The decline of PC gaming
However, all that said, all is not that rosy on the PC gaming scene either. The PC is no longer the mainstream gaming platform it once was, and ever more software developers do not see the PC as a first tier gaming platform. That accolade has been taken by the games consoles.
Games consoles, such as XBox, Playstation and Nintendo have taken the mainstream crown. They appeal to ordinary folk due in no small part to the fact that they live under the family TV where they can be played from the comfort of the sofa. This in stark contrast to the PC which is seen by most as less practical for such an environment.
Some doomsayers predict that PC gaming is dying. And for the mainstream, they may have a point. But for hard-core gaming aficionados, the PC is still the gaming platform of choice. As said above, the upgradability of PC hardware is a major plus lacking in the consoles. And the mouse/keyboard input method of a PC can be a much more precise input method compared to console gaming pads.So what does this all mean for the Mac?
For hard-core gamers, the PC is the only choice. Macs are not even on their radar. At least not for gaming. But what about the rest of us? Us 'casual gamers', if you will? What are our options?...
- Do the number of commercial games releases for Macs suffice? Some genres of gaming are covered better than others. And is improving since the 'Steam' games distribution system was expanded to include Mac OS.
- Commercial games may be comparatively thin on the ground, but cheap shareware games are plentiful.
- Basically, a Mac is a PC with a different OS. Dual boot Windows, and the vast catalogue of Windows games are now available for you now too. It's a viable option that lots of Mac users utilise, even if they only use Windows as a game bootloader.
- Games consoles are now the primary gaming platforms. They're comparatively cheap, the latest arcade games are plentiful, and unlike PCs, they're simple to use. With one of those under the family TV, any Mac would thus be freed of any gaming burden at all.
- Could your gaming needs be covered by handheld gaming from Nintendo or Sony? Or indeed even Apple's own iOS devises e.g. iPhone and their associated app store.
So in summary...
...there are indeed only a fraction of the amount of games that run on OS X compared to Windows and the games consoles. Luckily, having a Mac doesn't preclude you from having access to any of these formats. You could get a games console and leave your Mac a game-free zone. Or you could install Windows on your Mac too and thus have access to all its games. Whether these are acceptable compromises for you is very much a matter of individual perspective. But the options are there.
- themacgamer.com 'The Mac Gamer' magazine; news, reviews, previews
- www.insidemacgames.com 'Inside Mac Games' magazine; news, reviews, previews
- www.macgamefiles.com Repository of game downloads
- www.macgames.com Game section of Download.com downloads
- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mac_gaming Wikipedia's look at the state and history of Mac gaming
- store.steampowered.com/browse/mac Steam's Mac games distribution
Page content last updated 1 January 2011