Ever since the first Mac appeared in 1984, Apple has nurtured the idea that its products are so new, so slick, that anyone who used them was cooler than everybody else. So as the popularity of ever-faster, ever-more-realistic games climbed, it seemed like a sure bet that the Mac was going to be a prime field of competition. And then…
Nothing really happened.
It’s an issue that has dogged Apple for years. The products known for leading-edge graphics and sound just haven’t been able to develop a fan base among hard-core gamers.
“If you try to do a first-person shooter game on an iPhone, it hurts,” John Davison, director and general manager of content and publishing for Red Robot, told attendees of this year’s Macworld. Along with Tekzilla co-host Veronica Belmont and Ryan Mac Donald, director of production for GameSpot, he spoke as part of a panel moderated by Macworld video producer Carlos Rodela.
Davison wasn’t talking about playing, but building. The consensus among the panel was that Apple hasn’t been particularly supportive of game developers. “It’s still like that today. There’s not a lot of support for games, expect for iOS games,” Belmont said. “Unless Apple chooses your game as one worth promoting, it’s difficult to rise above the noise in the App Store.”
Whether or not Apple is ambivalent about Mac games, publishers are still rolling out both Microsoft Windows and Mac versions of their titles.
Ratchet It Up
One way Cupertino would win over more gamers is by retooling to make it easier to update its hardware as cheaply as a Windows box, Belmont believes.
But perhaps the greatest game changer will come from Steam, a platform that allows users to download and play games on a variety of devices including Macs and Windows or Linux machines. Davison thinks this approach has great promise: “I think a hybrid model is coming where you have a window into your library,” he said.
That would make life easier for game developers, but whether it would increase Mac’s popularity among users who want to game as much as they want to use productivity tools is an open question. “There’s a perception within the gaming community — no matter how accurate — that Macs are vastly inferior in regards to playing games,” wrote Matt Clark on IGN last week. “While there’s certainly an argument to be made touting the performance of Apple’s hardware, Cupertino has done little to sway opinion.”