Anyone who’s been a Mac user and gamer for any length of time knows that Apple has always been a figurative absentee relative to Mac gaming, sometimes showing a fleeting interest in it, only to then ignore it for years at a time. time.
The last few years in particular have seen Mac gaming move in an increasingly dark direction, with Apple’s abandonment of OpenGL (and eventual replacement by Metal), the transition to Vulkan/DirectX 12 on PC, and the announcement of the move to Apple. Silicon contributes to the virtual abandonment of AAA ports in favor of macOS.
As bad as things are on the surface, I think there’s always a potential silver lining.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like Apple is able to have both the ability and the commercial incentive to put more emphasis on game development in its ecosystem.
Over the past several years, Apple has increasingly, albeit inconsistently, demonstrated its recognition of the importance of gaming to the iOS ecosystem and the unique ability of games to demonstrate Apple’s substantial leadership in performance in the mobile space. I think Apple Arcade, introduced in 2019, best exemplifies Apple’s flirtation with greater involvement in the space (although, like most Apple gaming projects, it also gets little attention.)
On the Mac side, however, Apple’s commitment to minimalist designs with anemic GPUs, the sorry state of the Mac Pro, and Intel’s inability to deliver the integrated graphics that powered most Macs sold meant that developers ruled out the Mac as a platform because the number of Macs that could run AAA titles were limited (and those who cared could use Boot Camp) and Apple canceled the game because they considered it an insignificant driver of Mac sales.
However, with the transition to Apple Silicon, the Mac has undergone a paradigm shift that could finally break this cycle. For the first time in (recent) Apple history, even the most modest (Apple Silicon) Macs combine a fast processor with a modern GPU more than capable of running the latest AAA titles.
Apple now has the pieces in place to deliver a gaming experience that spans the gamut from portable to AAA. In fact, they may be the only company besides Nintendo with a platform where AAA games could be rolled out to millions of users and played at home and on the go, seamlessly.
If Apple chooses to go all out, Apple Arcade could be repurposed into a more “serious” gaming service, like GamePass to help encourage developers to bring games into the Apple ecosystem.
Do I think this will happen? I would like to hope so but… It would require a significant investment to improve the underlying APIs and woo developers. Apple should also find a way to salvage its relationship with Epic. And of course, Apple’s corporate culture has traditionally viewed gaming as “outside of its core business” at best.
Still, it’s fun to think about, and maybe we’ll get something at WWDC (maybe not THIS WWDC…but someday…maybe)
(Just to be clear, this post is more along the lines of something interesting that Apple MIGHT do than what I necessarily think they will do)