Update from July 12th, post originally published on July 11th.
Gaming has been at the forefront of computer performance for decades. Bigger, better, faster, smoother, more haunting – the big games of the day were the perfect example of what can be achieved.
Except for Apple Mac owners. The radical changeover to ARM hardware does not change this situation. In fact, it will make things a lot worse.
July 12 Update: One approach Apple is taking to attract game developers to the Intel architecture of Windows 10 is to offer software tools for metal, Apple’s interface for encoders to access the graphics processing unit (GPU). Hartley Charlton reports::
“Many game development studios have set up pipelines for the production of game or graphics assets that use the Microsoft Windows infrastructure. One of the most important final steps in creating assets is compiling the graphics and compute shaders for inclusion in the game.
“… Although it is not possible to fully develop games for Apple devices on Windows, since a Mac is still needed for software signing and testing, the availability of game-oriented Apple developer tools for Windows is an important step in gaming Apple devices. ”
While this is welcome, developers still have to make a positive decision to learn a new platform. While the addressable audience will include not only ARM-enabled Mac computers, but also the iPhone and iPad, the mobile audience has not been enough to launch major AAA game titles. It is currently difficult to see how a new secondary tool for Windows will change this.
Apple’s move away from an Intel-based system offers the company a number of advantages, not least in terms of performance and efficient power consumption, but it will be even more difficult for anyone who is serious about gaming to consider the Mac platform to draw.
Porting an Intel-based PC game to an Intel-based Mac is not a trivial operation, and a comparison of the best-selling games for Windows 10 and MacOS on Steam shows a clear lack of key titles for Apple’s computer. By moving the platform to ARM, Apple is introducing another barrier. Given that the market for large games for MacOS on Intel is minimal at best. Don’t expect any improvement under ARM.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be games on Macs here, but if you follow the ARM route, the Mac series – which will start with the MacBook Pro later this year – will be for developers who want to play mobile games on the existing ARM are used to be much more suitable platforms from iOS and iPadOS. There are some absolutely crisp games out there, but are they the AAA titles that players love on high-end PCs and consoles?
No. We’ll see that many of the top-notch mobile games come to Mac, hopefully with additions and extras that make for a better desktop experience. And the occasional global phenomenon will be able to attract enough audiences to make it profitable (yes, I see Fortnite), but in general the new paradigm for MacOS will make porting mobile games a lot easier than porting desktop games .
Many players live on both MacOS and Windows 10 thanks to the use of Boot Camp and the ability to switch to alternative operating systems on a Mac computer. A feature that Apple is removing for the upcoming MacOS Big Sur. This puts emulation and virtual machines more in the foreground. It remains to be seen whether this is sufficient for the insatiable game market.
The answer could be streaming. The Stadia service from Google runs on computers in the lower price range, in particular on its own Chromebook platform. However, this places two gatekeepers between the player and the developer. Apple must give Stadia full and unrestricted access to the system (and we’ll see how much friction there is with Apple and Google’s billing systems), and Google must allow developers’ titles to be accepted in Stadia (which it is will undoubtedly come with a number of “suggested practices”).
Neither of them currently offers players trust. Apple talks a great game about performance, development tools, and flexibility. However, Intel-based Macs haven’t attracted top games in many years. Not only is the switch to ARM unlikely to change, but Apple has also made it harder to get big titles on the platform.
Read now why your next Mac will cost more than you think …