The Mac gaming landscape is surprisingly diverse when it comes to where and how you can purchase games online. Some of these places are obvious, some more obscure. But more than anything we find many gamers are not aware of all the options, in addition to the pros and cons each one may carry with it. Read on for a comprehensive overview of the “big boys” in our Part One look at buying Mac games.
The 800-pound gorilla of digital distribution (and one that we covered in an earlier Mac Gaming 101 installment), Steam has come to dominate the computer gaming landscape on both platforms. Mac users had the benefit of bypassing most of Steam’s growing pains on the PC as it was only made available in 2010 on the Mac, and by then the service was fully-featured. Probably best known for its frequent and often outrageous game sales, Steam has a way of emptying your wallet on irresistible deals. The other major feature is Steam Play, which lets you buy a game once and own it on both Mac and PC. This also usually means cross-platform multiplayer, which is a big deal if you are the kind of gamer who thrives on multiplayer games.
Technically Steam is a form of DRM (and used in many recent Aspyr Media games), but it does so much as a service that it is hard to complain. Automatic updates, game library management, friends lists, chat, voice chat, achievements, community features (such as groups and photo- and video-sharing) and more make for a very robust gaming experience that no other company or application comes even close to offering. The only particular downsides to Steam are that some Mac users complain of poor performance or just simply dislike having to use a separate application to launch their games. And for all its goodness, there are certainly still some bugs for Valve (the purveyors of this fine online establishment) to work out in the Mac client.