Please extend a warm welcome to Michael Simpson, our newest social media marketing intern. Michael is a graduate of Westwood College with a degree in game software development. He “aspyr”s to one day be a game designer, specifically in the areas of game mechanics and/or balancing. Michael has always been into competitive gaming, and lately has been fairly obsessed with Riot Games’ League of Legends. Some of his favorite games include Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Shadow of the Colossus, Limbo, and Silent Hill 2. For his first entry, we asked Michael to comment on the future of Mac gaming, and the larger picture of gaming on Apple devices in general.
The future of gaming on the Mac is going to rely heavily upon choices made by Apple. Looking to the past, one can see that Apple hasn’t made much effort to support gaming on its OS, until quite recently. One of the largest breakthroughs was Apple’s shift to Intel processors and then later the release of Boot Camp, though this ultimately still promoted playing games through a Windows OS (part of the problem). While this is a temporary way to satisfy fans of gaming, it’s not the answer to gaming natively on a Mac OS. The laziness Apple has exhibited in the past with game software has been a large bane to gamers who also love Apple PCs and Mac OSX.
Problems of the Past
Historically speaking, Apple has taken too much of an ambiguous stance toward gaming on their platform. A great example of this is an old interview with Gabe Newell, the co-founder of Valve Corp. Gabe reveals that he and others at Valve had been in talks with Apple many times, trying to get the ball rolling on Valve software releases for Mac operating systems. According to Gabe, Apple was hesitant to follow through with them on a repeated basis. Given Valve is responsible for arguably some of the greatest games in recent history, Apple’s choice to not follow through on this opportunity should leave doubts toward their commitment to Mac gaming.
Full Steam Ahead
While choices like this have made Apple’s aim to make gaming “serious” on a Mac dubious at best, recent developments have been significantly more promising. With Valve’s announcement that Steam would be available on the Mac, it seems that they were finally able to get through to Apple. Though the number of games currently available through Steam is limited in comparison to the PC version, the fact that Steam is available for the Mac period is a huge boost to Mac gaming. Steam makes games incredibly accessible and therefore offers increased exposure as well. Both of these things are needed to increase the likelihood of game developers releasing Mac ports in close tandem with their PC counterparts. Essentially, Steam makes a future where a Mac gamer is no longer logging into their Windows partition to play a given game a very viable possibility.
With Steam breathing life into Mac gaming, there’s some assuredness to its growth. However, the future of gaming and Apple may be more closely associated with other apple products – namely, the Apple iPhone and iTouch. The iPhone in terms of app support is fairly dominant among mobile devices, and experienced iPhone developers are highly sought-after in the job market. Apple has the ability to take the iPhone and do to the rest of the phone industry what PCs essentially did to Macs in terms of gaming. If Apple continues to put time into iPhone and iTouch graphics and app support, the sky is the limit as to what these devices could achieve. When there are 99 cent games in the app store that are giving better experiences than ~$30 Nintendo DS/Sony PSP games, who is to say that such a device couldn’t potentially steal sales from the handheld industry? With Nintendo’s 3DS launching at a $249 price point (slightly more than the base iTouch retail of $229), the iTouch and its future generations can be seen as a reasonable alternative, especially for more casual gamers. This isn’t even taking into account the plethora of other features that the iOS can offer.
A Hopeful Future
While Apple has found a bit of a gaming niche with the iOS app store, there are still strides to be made if the Mac is to be considered a true alternative to PC gaming. Fortunately with the launch of Steam for the Mac, Apple now has a stronger foothold to challenge PC dominance. Most importantly, Apple must continue to make a strong push for gaming and continue to show that it’s a market they wish to capture.
How do you feel about Steam on the Mac? Is Steam going to be Apple’s big ticket item toward driving Mac gaming, or just a small stepping stone in the right direction? What about other online game services, such as Aspyr’s GameAgent Store or the Mac App Store? How about the gaming support on Apple’s mobile devices? Feel free to leave some comments below with your opinions!