Will Macs Ever Be Taken Seriously by Gamers?

Underestimate the Mac at your own peril.

Will Macs Ever Be Taken Seriously by Gamers?

Key Takeaways

  • Macs used to be top gaming computers, and with Apple's focus on gaming, they may return to that status soon.
  • Apple Silicon tech makes Macs great for gaming, with Metal API and easy porting kits for developers.
  • With major titles being ported to Mac and rising market share, Mac owners should spread the word to attract more games.

For decades the idea of gaming on a Mac has been seen as a joke by "hardcore" gamers, but that wasn't always the case, and maybe in the near future the Mac's gaming credentials will return.

Macs Used to Be the Best Gaming Computers

When PC gaming was still just PC speaker bleeps and bloops, Apple computers offered a gaming experience on another level. Games like Karateka, Prince of Persia, Oregon Trail, and Ultima 1 on the Apple II set the standard for high-end gaming in the late 70s and early 80s. By the 90s every major game worth mentioning had a Mac version, and titles like Myst and the Marathon Trilogy by Bungie showed that Mac was a serious gaming platform, even if it only catered to a much smaller segment of the personal computer market than it does today. Heck, the first Halo game was set to be a Mac exclusive, announced by Steve Jobs himself. Sure, it was a totally different style of game at that point, but it was still on everyone's radar.

From there, the shift to Intel from PowerPC made porting Windows games to Mac easier, but the results weren't always stellar, and when Apple killed 32-bit app support for macOS Catalina, making most of the Mac back catalog unplayable, it didn't help. Still, anyone who doesn't think of the Mac as an important gaming platform has to completely ignore the points in its long existence where it was leading gaming technology or highly influential.

Apple Is Taking Gaming Seriously

Will Macs Ever Be Taken Seriously by Gamers?

While Apple may have lost focus on gaming, and its latter Intel-based systems usually lacked the GPU power to play anything well, things are very different now. Thanks to the technology the company developed for iPhone and iPad, and its experience with being a gaming platform there, Apple Silicon is a serious hardware platform for games. Even the lowliest M1 Apple Silicon systems are comparable in performance to the last-generation consoles millions of people are still actively using to this day, and its second and third generation of Apple Silicon chips have raised that floor right into current-generation gaming territory.

It's not just the hardware that's ready to game. Apple has its own API known as Metal, and includes AI-upscaling technology in the form of MetalFX. Controller support is universal across macOS and the iOS family. Apple has even created a special porting kit which makes it as easy as possible for developers to port their Windows games to Mac. All the groundwork for an Apple gaming renaissance is in place, now the games have to come.

Developers Need to Take It Seriously (and Some Are)

Will Macs Ever Be Taken Seriously by Gamers?

A platform that's technically ready for gaming is necessary but no sufficient for Mac gaming to be taken seriously. You need the games that people want to play to come to Mac. Apple has put in some effort in this area as well, working with some developers to bring big-name titles such as Resident Evil 8 or Death Stranding to Apple Silicon.

Even without any prodding from Apple, the rise in computer market share that Apple has undergone in the past few years is surely attracting the attention of developers who are looking to expand their potential customer base. If you look at the 2024 Game Awards nominees several of these games have native Mac versions, including Baldur's Gate 3, Resident Evil 4 Remake, and Dave the Diver. Perusing Steam on macOS, and you'll see a long list of new and older games that are either native to Apple Silicon or will run via Rosetta, and even the humble M1 MacBook Air can run most of these titles well.

Mac Owners Need to Spread the Word

If you have a modern M1 Silicon Mac, you should definitely grab a controller, or hook up a decent mouse and see which of the games you already own has a Mac version. You may be surprised at how competent and solid the experience has become. All those MacBook Air owners may have no idea that they have a potent little portable gaming machine in their bag, and if you have one of the higher-end Apple Silicon MacBooks or desktop Macs with more powerful GPUs, you might have a great gaming system right there without knowing it.

While I still can't say that anyone should buy a Mac for gaming yet, I can say that if you need a Mac for any other reason, you should definitely try gaming on it, and if you like it, let Apple, developers, and your friends know about it. There's a chicken-and-egg situation with gaming on Macs where no one will port or make games without demand, and there won't be demand without people playing games on their Macs. Which means if you're a gamer and a Mac fan, you need to do your bit to make it more attractive for game developers across the globe.

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