Mac Gaming Renaissance?

Matt Barton's picture

Tech News World is running the 2nd in a 2-part series on the Mac Gaming Renaissance, which explores some exciting new developments for those with Macs. The first part looks at how "recent changes in the Mac platform, such as the move to Intel processors and the introduction of virtualization software like Boot Camp, Parallels and VMware, have led to a surge in Apple's share of the computer market."

There are in fact some big names "signing on," such as EA, though one wishes the more middling companies would take up the slack. With a proper mouse and keyboard (not supplied, by the way), my iMac has become a heavenly machine for gaming, much better than my admittedly antiquated PC. I also disagree with the oft-heard claim that hardcore gamers love upgrading their PCs. Maybe a subset do, but I know plenty of others who would appreciate the Mac's simplicity in that regard. Indeed, it seems that a healthy Mac gaming platform would be great for developers, since they'd be working with a comparatively uniform platform compared to the PC market, similar to the console markets.

I've been playing several games via bootcamp, such as Age of Empires III, Dungeon Siege 2, and a host of adventure games. The machine handles these games excellently, though it is a pain having to restart into Windows mode. I have no doubt that I'd be better off with games for the iMac rather than the bootcamp option. Still, if more Windows gamers are willing to go Mac because of the bootcamp option, perhaps this might lead (eventually) to more Mac games.

I play the Mac version of World of Warcraft and have been very impressed with that--indeed, it's much nicer in many ways than the PC version. For instance, I can stream iTunes in the background, and WOW will even print the song titles on the gameplay screen for me. I haven't seen the equivalent of that on the PC version.

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Bill Loguidice
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Mac Gaming - Not there yet

I thought EA was basically just taking the PC versions and using a type of translator to create a Mac version, creating a small performance hit and occasional glitch in the process? Regardless, as the article states, developers and publishers won't specifically target the Mac until it's market share hits whatever critical mass is deemed safe, and only then if its proven that Mac owners will buy games. Mainstream PC gaming as it is is having a hard enough time getting development time over consoles, so when you further break it down to Mac computer gaming, you're getting awfully low down on the totem pole. On the plus side, Mac gaming is in a considerably better state than Linux gaming...



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Mark Vergeer
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VMWare - 3d graphics

Both VMWare and I believe also Parallels are or will be offering 3D graphics capabilities when Windows is running in the virtual machines. This allows for easy game playing without having to physically reboot the machine.
And then there's all sorts of Wine derivatives that allow you to run 3D windows games from within OSX - not by creating a virtual machine but by recreating or re-using the windows API's that are required for running the game.



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Bill Loguidice
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Virtualization and Integration
Mark Vergeer wrote:

Both VMWare and I believe also Parallels are or will be offering 3D graphics capabilities when Windows is running in the virtual machines. This allows for easy game playing without having to physically reboot the machine.
And then there's all sorts of Wine derivatives that allow you to run 3D windows games from within OSX - not by creating a virtual machine but by recreating or re-using the windows API's that are required for running the game.

Yes, I believe that's even what EA is doing. If Apple ever integrates the Windows APIs into OSX, or at least allows you to integrate the OS installations, you won't need to leave OSX anymore. Of course, as usual, the better you make it, the less reason there will be for a specific Mac version and Windows wins again.



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Matt Barton
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I don't think Mac gaming

I don't think Mac gaming will be taking over PC gaming anytime soon (or probably ever), mind you, but I do think there's a growing niche here that's worth taking seriously. I would love to see Mac gaming distinguish itself by being THE platform for a certain type of gaming, perhaps adventure or casual games. I'd love to see Cyan release a new adventure game series exclusively (or at least originating) for the Mac--I'm sure something like that would give the platform a boost and would even be worth Apple's partial funding of it.

The same could be said for PC gaming vs. consoles. PC games shouldn't try to take on that market head-to-head, but specialize in the areas they can do better than consoles--particularly games that benefit from a keyboard and mouse. If it's just another FPS, I see little reason to target the PC instead of consoles. Hell, I'd love to see Sherman's company take off and a return of a commercially viable text adventure market.

Then again, as far as I know there have ALWAYS been people who claim console gaming is superior to anything available on a computer, so it's not worth really debating that point. Ultimately, it's a matter of preference, and I'm not sure if the PC market has really "shrunk" or whether it's remained relatively the same while the console market has swelled. It'd be interesting to do a study and see if the # of titles originating on the PC platform has ebbed numerically as well as proportionately.

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Bill Loguidice
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Markets
Matt Barton wrote:

I don't think Mac gaming will be taking over PC gaming anytime soon (or probably ever), mind you, but I do think there's a growing niche here that's worth taking seriously. I would love to see Mac gaming distinguish itself by being THE platform for a certain type of gaming, perhaps adventure or casual games. I'd love to see Cyan release a new adventure game series exclusively (or at least originating) for the Mac--I'm sure something like that would give the platform a boost and would even be worth Apple's partial funding of it.

The question becomes though, is it worth the trouble to Apple to do that? They've dipped their toes into gaming before, but I don't think that they're comfortable tipping their growing apple cart of success based on exactly what they're doing - selling slick, cool, trendy computers that do fun things, but are not game machines. With that said, I just don't see it being in their plans, particularly since PC gamers are a fickle bunch and most PC software simply doesn't sell that well.

Matt Barton wrote:

The same could be said for PC gaming vs. consoles. PC games shouldn't try to take on that market head-to-head, but specialize in the areas they can do better than consoles--particularly games that benefit from a keyboard and mouse. If it's just another FPS, I see little reason to target the PC instead of consoles.

That would be true if it were an us versus them mentality, but the vast majority of developers and publishers are in both console and PC markets, so they have no reason to maximize things on the PC gaming side. If they can sell 500,000 copies of a title on consoles and only 50,000 copies on the PC, the PC will continue to remain an afterthought. Why put the same relative effort for fewer sales?

Matt Barton wrote:

Hell, I'd love to see Sherman's company take off and a return of a commercially viable text adventure market.

Again, in my opinion, unless IF is marketed and sold differently, it's not going anywhere.

Matt Barton wrote:

Then again, as far as I know there have ALWAYS been people who claim console gaming is superior to anything available on a computer, so it's not worth really debating that point. Ultimately, it's a matter of preference, and I'm not sure if the PC market has really "shrunk" or whether it's remained relatively the same while the console market has swelled. It'd be interesting to do a study and see if the # of titles originating on the PC platform has ebbed numerically as well as proportionately.

I think there's much to that statement of the PC gaming population not having grown since the 90s. Part of the issue of course is one of accessibility and understandability. Certainly you're not going to grow PC gaming if it's still difficult to get games running optimally or there are tons of settings or what you have, not to mention the occasional need for upgrades (certainly Games for Windows has made a partial effort towards alleviating this, but it has thus far been a failure). That's why casual games and hardcore games are so popular in the world of PCs and little in-between. Casual games don't require much effort on the configuration or optimization side (and often run through a browser), while the hard core games appeal to those who like to overclock and tweak every last setting and enjoy upgrading. This is again as opposed to what's on the console side where even a newbie can just pop a disc in or download a game and have it immediately work, including being properly targeted for their controller. That's very, very hard to overcome.



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Rob Daviau
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Just a quickie........

Yeah, we've heard it BEFORE, MAC getting back into gaming but come on, I mean even PC gaming has dwindled
significantly compared to console gaming which it pains me to admit. First and foremost BIG Commercial gaming
is no different then any other business and outside of consoles the only viable market is PC (IE: WINDOWS MACHINES)
and I don't see that likely to change anytime soon. Yes it's nice to entertain the idea but come on realisticly
I don't see it. WHY would any game manufacture start producing games for the MAC market? I think MAC HEADS need
to stick with emulation, ports etc, and before any of you go shitting on me....I am a REALIST NOT hopping for
a fantasy, take this from a guy who supported and dealt with lack of support on the AMIGA for years before reluctantly
moving to the PC................................................................

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Oldschool games, some people just don't "get it"...

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Bill Loguidice
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Nostalgia and When the Good Fight is No Longer Worth it

You touched on one of my favorite nostalgia points, Oldschoolgamer, that of the "old days" and us fighting the "good fight" for our chosen (or only) platform, even in the face of insurmountable odds. That was certainly the case with the Amiga, when many of us held on to the system's prowess even in the face of better VGA graphics and roughly equivalent sound, before finally simply giving in to the PC's dominance. Many of us didn't bother to switch to Amiga AGA machines because of that. It was already apparent the Amiga was pretty much done in the US and the PC would be where the action was at.

Today, we have that a lot with Linux enthusiasts. I've always maintained that it will never get out of a single digit marketshare, despite all the proclamations of the "Year of Linux" year in and year out. As I've gotten older and become more and more platform agnostic, I've personally come to realize that market share or lots of people using something really doesn't make a difference. We're not really in the business of converting people to our side. The market realities are what they are for a reason. The mass market always goes towards the path of least resistance, even if that path is not necessarily the ideal path. It's why consoles are the primary platform for most developers and publishers and it's why, to your point, Mac gaming will never go beyond a niche. If a platform, Windows, with 90+% of the market has trouble being a primary or targeted mainstream game development system these days, how can a platform at 5% or less be a target? Sometimes you just have to give in to the hard realities rather than what your heart wants. It doesn't mean you have to like it, but yeah, it would be nice sometimes if a little more hard reality was put into biased pundit prognastications.



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Matt Barton
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I don't think it's

I don't think it's necessarily important for a platform to receive "mainstream" support. I can't imagine any computer platform ever competing head-to-head with the console market for the many good reasons already mentioned. However, there's another side to the coin.

If I make a game for the Xbox 360, let's say, or the Wii, then I have to compete with all the other mega-budget titles for that system. It's like a goldfish swimming in the ocean. On the other hand, if I make the same game for the Mac, all else being equal, then a greater percentage of Mac users may want to buy my game. In this case I'm more like a goldfish in a fish bowl. There will be greater possibilities for visibility, if nothing else. This factor will improve if the game really does somehow take better advantage of the Mac's unique capabilities.

In short, if I want to make a competitive game for the PS3, then I need a million dollar investment and a heavy hand already in the jar. Only the "big boys" can really compete. On the PC or Mac, however, I have much greater flexibility, particularly if I'm hip to alternative marketing strategies. In previous articles I talked to guys that were still one-man development teams, and they were making enough money to comfortably support their families just making Windows games. There are many other guys doing that for FLASH and other online games. Compare that to being one of 1,000 peons working at EA. My guess is the pay is probably comparable if not even greater for the one-man band.

Also, I don't see why you can't guys don't buy my specialty gaming argument. If the Mac earned a reputation for excellent adventure games, why wouldn't that work out well for Apple as well as the various companies making those games?

I guess my big argument here is that it's really not the point whether Joe X gives a crap or not. Joe X will always take the path of least resistance and go with a console. However, there are more roads than just the interstate. After all, people still come to Armchair Arcade even though there are much larger sites out there that cover gaming.

I might add that even though 99.9% of American beer drinkers prefer Bud Light (or what have you), there is still a steadily growing market for imports and microbrewed beer. It's not fair to say those smaller guys should give up just because they'll never compete directly with Anheiser Busch. If there's sufficient demand, an enterprising individual will strive to meet it.

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Bill Loguidice
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Games, games, games...
Matt Barton wrote:

If I make a game for the Xbox 360, let's say, or the Wii, then I have to compete with all the other mega-budget titles for that system. It's like a goldfish swimming in the ocean. On the other hand, if I make the same game for the Mac, all else being equal, then a greater percentage of Mac users may want to buy my game. In this case I'm more like a goldfish in a fish bowl. There will be greater possibilities for visibility, if nothing else. This factor will improve if the game really does somehow take better advantage of the Mac's unique capabilities.

That is certainly one argument, but at the same time, if you make a game for either of those systems mentioned, you're still all but guaranteed more sales even if it doesn't do all that well in relative comparison to big budget titles. Let's face it, 100% of 360 or Wii owners are gamers, highly likely to buy games. You can't say that about 100% of Mac owners who may or may not have a Mac that can run the software. And your niche argument is intriguing, but it still doesn't hold. Even if the Mac became the premiere adventure gaming platform, for instance, that still presumes that there are enough adventure gamers out there to make that a profitable niche. As a universal platform owner and enthusiast, I could really care less who "wins" or who has what. In the end it's really what the best platform is for the developer's vision, be it console, handheld, cell phone, PC, iPod or what-have-you...



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Seb
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All about sales...

If you take into account the costs of developing your average game compared to the number of Mac users out there who are game buyers, my guess is that it's not economically viable. Even the PC market isn't doing that well, the majority of the major titles are pretty much hastily put together console port...

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