Why Are Macs Not Considered Gaming Computers: A Different Look

written by Russ Looney on February 10, 2011 in Classic Posts and Mac Hardware and Special Feature

Please welcome Jonathan Cohen, a social media marketing intern here at Aspyr. “J5” is an MBA graduate student at St. Edward’s University, specializing in Digital Media Management. Jonathan has an extensive film & television background, but moonlights as a gamer! His favorite games include FIFA 11, Pinball FX, God of War, and Call of Duty 4. We’re excited to have J5 with us, and here he pens a response to RBurger’s post of the same title on why Mac is losing the battle with PCs, and what Apple can do to fix the problem… Enjoy!

The Epic Battle

The Apple brand is universally associated with innovation, stylish design, and operating simplicity. With the success of the iPod, iPhone, and now the iPad, Apple has arguably become “THE” hardware manufacturer for mobile devices. However, when it comes to gaming, Macs don’t have such a positive reputation. The three main issues are: universality, performance, and scalability.

The reason gamers like to talk about OpenGL versus DirectX is because content IS king. Let’s face it, hardcore computer gamers shy away from Macs because there are more games available for PC, and only PC. This lack of universality forces Mac owners to run PC virtual machines and emulation software’s just to play incompatible games. As a result, the Mac uses more power, exhausts its resources for performance, and in the end the game is about as stable as Lindsay Lohan on a Saturday night.

Lindsay Lohan at her best

Gamers also believe that the Mac’s system performance is not up to par with its PC counterparts. Without getting into all kinds of nerdy technical specifications, while the Macbook Pro and Mac Pro tower have enough processing power for resource-heavy creative applications like Final Cut Pro and Pro Tools, they sputter and fart in comparison to a PC. Check out this Mac OS X versus Windows performance comparison for Half Life 2 on Anandtech.com. Gamers don’t want a Colecovision when they can own a Playstation 2 for less money. (It’s no secret these Macs are extremely expensive.) Gamers know that they can build a PC from the ground-up for less than it costs to buy a Mac mini.

This highlights the scalability issues of Macs. Its much more difficult to upgrade and personalize a Mac than it is a PC because of the Mac’s lack of flexibility. Ever try upgrading the hardware on an iMac? I’d rather rebuild the Death Star… Macs have more proprietary system components, and because gaming technologies are constantly advancing, gamers prefer the ease of updating their systems to maximize performance. And the circle of life continues…

hakuna matata!

So how can Apple change this negative perception of gaming on Macs? Last summer, Apple had some good fortune when Valve released a Mac compatible version of Steam. One of the most popular online gaming platforms in the world, Steam will build awareness to gamers that Macs “can” perform as gaming systems. It will also allow current Mac users to explore and expand their game libraries to include more titles than just your browser’s “Minesweeper” plug-in.

Mac owners can also explore video games through the newly released App Store. The App Store is similar to the iTunes Store, but it is located directly on the Mac operating system and allows Mac users to easily purchase Mac compatible games (ahem, like Aspyr’s Call of Duty 4, Civilization IV: Colonization, and the newly-released Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition!). You can make these purchases with one click of a button. After all, simplicity is Apple’s bread and butter (where it’s Microsoft’s ever-hard-to-find Nutella croissant).

The success of the iPhone and iPod as gaming devices can allow Apple to vertically integrate itself into the gaming industry as well. If Apple were to release a Mac gaming console or a new Mac computer, one that’s specialized for gaming with amazing graphic and sound components, it could gather a huge chunk of the gaming market share. This would establish Apple as an all-purpose industry player, much like Sony and Microsoft are today.

The bottom line is that the gaming industry would gladly accept Apple if it wished to penetrate the environment, however, whether Apple will dedicate itself to changing its gaming perception is up to them. Apple seems content with its current focus on mobile technologies, and because of this it may wish that the gaming industry comes to it.