Why ignore Mac gaming? Who’s ignoring it?

Rob Fahey for GamesIndustry International:

Yet there is actually a massive platform missing from that line-up – the “other” Apple platform, Mac OS X. With the exception of a handful of stand-out developers, perhaps most notably Blizzard, PC game developers have traditionally ignored Apple’s computers in creating their games.

Most of Fahey’s observations are old hat to Mac veterans who only too well understand the economic, logistical and historic reasons why Mac gaming isn’t a thriving industry. And a lot of this inside baseball is eye-glazingly boring to consumers who are new to the market who haven’t the slightest interest in playing games on their Macs, even though they gleefully drop 99 cents at a time for the latest iOS novelty app.

But Fahey either willfully or ignorantly misses the fact that there is a Mac game market, comprising companies like TransGaming, Feral Interactive, Aspyr and others, who license games from major publishers and produce Macintosh versions of them. You can go poor trying to keep up with their new releases. There are also a ton more casual games on the Mac platform than there used to be.

Apple gave this moribund market new life with the introduction of the Mac App Store, and it’s growing organically and sustainable. As the Mac’s popularity grows, the Mac App Store’s influence – along with other Mac software download services – will continue to positively influence the growth of games on the platform.

I doubt that the Mac will ever achieve equilibrium with other platforms when it comes to gaming. But that hardly seems to matter now. Gaming has evolved, and soon we’ll be seeing even richer, more sophisticated games on the iPad that will rival console games.

  • SiMBa37

    Great comment Peter, but don’t forget Valve’s Steam for OSX too. I’ve blown way too much money on Steam games on my Mac.

  • D Pauw

    The problem is that the higher production value games will still take years to get ported if at all — similar to how iOS is viewed with disdain in that market. EA was all talk about getting their games on all the platforms they can but that is really code for treating Mac and mobile platforms as second class citizens and then wonder why consumers are annoyed. It is why I stopped paying attention to the big devs for any innovation in that area and have my hope pinned on independent studios.

    • lucascott

      Hardcore gamers would put up their noses at those indie groups as well. Because they aren’t making ‘real’ games. And yet the point of games is to have fun and for the developers make some money. And those ‘faux games’ on the iPad etc do both. Maybe not to someone who thinks a game must only run on their custom made tower machine, but to the folks that buy them certainly. 

  • Chuck

    The sad thing is that many game developers have been suckered into Microsoft proprietary DirectX platform which makes porting games much harder. Often creating buggy or worse performing ports of games released months to even years after the PC release.

  • Ever since Steam was ported to OSX, gaming on the Mac has been pretty good. You generally won’t see the latest and greatest AAA blockbusters — probably for the best, because the Macbooks currently don’t have very good graphics hardware — but most of Valve and Blizzard’s games are there, as well as some of the best independent games of the past few years. (Bit.Trip Runner, Braid, Cave Story, Frozen Synapse, Jamestown, Limbo, Machinarium, SpaceChem, Super Meat Boy, Toki Tory, VVVVVV, World of Goo…) It’s definitely becoming a more visible platform.

  • Fahey pointed out Steam and the Mac App Store, but his point is that, compared to the titles that one has available for the Windows-PC platform, there are far fewer titles available for the Mac, and most of the traditional publishers still shy away from publishing to the Mac, or at least from publishing to the Mac at the same time as to Windows.

    And looking at the comments of this article towards the bottom confirms that at least some devs in the industry still believe many of the myths. Reading comments in Gamasutra articles confirms a lot more.

  • Of course, it’s not just disdain that keeps the big-name developers from porting their games over. In addition to the graphics issue I mentioned, Apple’s implementation of OpenGL is somewhat poorer than Microsoft’s, probably because they’ve never really had to bother with it before. Valve’s Mac efforts have spurred Apple to improve their drivers, but you can still see a noticeable performance difference if you compare a game like Team Fortress 2 running in OSX vs. Boot Camp.

    • D Pauw

      No doubt that Apple isn’t blameless here. They pretty much openly admitted that iOS becoming popular for casual games was despite their completely ignoring the market. But the same could be said of game devs having insane hardware requirements to run a game decently. Why do you need to continually upgrade your machine just to ensure you can play a game?

      • lucascott

        “Why do you need to continually upgrade your machine just to ensure you can play a game?”

        Because games get more sophisticated and need more power. 

        This is true for the Windows users as well. The difference is that they are using ‘generic’ parts versus Apple which is all ‘brand name’. Like with Rx drugs, generic is way cheaper. Plus many of them have built their own rig so they can pick and choose the parts they use. Because of these two things it costs a lot less to upgrade all the time so they complain much much much less about it

  • Pyridine04

    I read several PC gaming blogs and am often turned off by the completely dismissive attitude towards Macs whenever they’re mentioned.  Keep in mind though that many of the people making these comments buy into “spec porn”, and unless you have the latest and greatest hardware (where especially in terms of graphics cards, Apple lags), they think you’re lower than whale crap.  They’ve got a singleminded focus on performance per dollar, and if the cost is cheap materials, unstable/malware-riddled OS and driver issues out the ass, they’re willing to accept that.  Granted it’s a relatively small number of people who actively speak out about this, but they’re very loud and persuasive to the less-well-informed.

    Every time I hear about PC gamers with horrendous driver problems, overheating, reinstalling windows, worrying about 64-bit compatibility, etc., I smile and continue playing my game.

  • The writers/gamers/developers who are ignoring Apple are the same ones ignoring the massive rise of casual gaming platforms like the web, Wii and mobile phones.

    Hardcore gaming has always been about snobbery – who has the best hardware, who has the most games, etc. The popularity of iOS and the Wii due to causal gaming is easily dismissed by them because they live in a bubble where only other hardcore gamers exists.

    Problem is that a lot of game developers grew up as hardcore gamers, so all they want to do is make game for other hardcore gamers. Thankfully the rise of indie game developers is starting to change that.

    Over the last year iOS has become so big that all the major game blogs have started to cover it. Go into any story on an iOS game and the comments are predictable late-90s style rants from PC gamers who still think Apple is gay and has less than 1% market share.

    Lately, most game blogs I read have been publishing ghastly “Sorry, we have to cover Apple now because they are huge in the games industry” along with apologetic lines like “look we hate Apple as much as you do, but we have to report on them now”.

    • lucascott

      I hate to say it but I have to agree about the snobbery comment. The reason for the jokes about guys in their mother’s basement with no social skills etc are because they are often generally true. A lot of hard core gamers are actually like that to some degree or another and like it that way. Just like a lot of the gamer sites are, as you say, Apple haters that are talking about it out of some sense of requirement but hate every moment. That hatred coming from their snobbery about what is and isn’t a game. 

      Just like with computer users and programmers we are moving past the age of punch cards and PhDs. Everyone can, to paraphrase the movie, code. Or at least control. And with the push into everyone using computers we see a change it what is a game. “Casual” games as some call them are on the rise because they are what the masses want to play. There are a few more ‘hardcore’ styled games like Infinity Blade and as the hardware matures there will likely be more. These snobs need to get over thinking that only Halo, WoW etc are ‘games’. And to admit that the only reason they are talking about Apple is page hits cause they are hit whores like the rest. And they should stand their ground and ignore Apple, etc and stick to their ‘hard core games’ if that is what they want to only pay attention to. I’m sure Apple doesn’t care either way. 

      • Hardcore gamers who devote their lives to gaming are definitely threatened by the rise of casual gaming. It’s a fear that developers might not want to make games that appeal exclusively to them anymore, and so they react by throwing tantrums and writing venomous screeds on web forums.

        As you say – the denial goes so far that they start to insist that casual games are not really games at all. Anything to make them believe that they are the only customers in the whole games industry.

        • lucascott

          “Anything to make them believe that they are the only customers in the whole games industry.”

          Change games to Mac and you have a number of the old school Apple Computer customers as well. Especially the ones in professional creative jobs. I hear it at work all the time. They are pissed off that Apple dares to do anything for ‘ordinary’ people. They feel that Apple should just be making stuff for the creative types that ‘kept the company going’ and let the rest of the world buy Windows computers. 

  • I’ve bought more games on my Mac than I ever did on PC. Steam plus the Mac app store have now delivered games at an affordable price and I’m buying rather than using pirated games for the first time in like 20 years.

  • kennyrosenyc

    Why ignore Mac Gaming?  As a developer I can say the following: 1. Apple has no native version of Direct X 11.1 which is far superior to Open GL. And requires fewer resources for quality graphics. 2. There are only 2 development tools that run natively on Macs OS – Blender and Unity. Both are crap. 3. Apple charges ‘Apple Tax’ Windows does not. 4. A PC game can net $65 a copy. An iOS game $2.99. I can sell 1/20th of the units and still make the same money. 5. Apple users will still install Windows to get the full experiance anyway.