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The Mac Gaming Renaissance, Part 2

By Walaika Haskins MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Feb 10, 2008 4:00 AM PT

Game developers are slowly warming to the idea of producing more games for the Mac platform. Presently, it's possible to find a handful of famous titles from top-tier game makers. However, if you're looking for intense, graphics-heavy games -- the type of games best played on top-of-the-line machines -- you're mostly out of luck.

The Mac Gaming Renaissance, Part 2

Gaming's slower growth on the Mac platform has been largely a matter of market share, as was discussed in Part 1 of this series. However, will more users be enough to make the Mac a true gaming platform? Or are Apple computers just not built for power-hungry, mod-happy hardcore gamers?

Big Names Signing On

At the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco last June, Electronic Arts (EA) and Apple announced that the game maker would release titles like "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "Need for Speed: Carbon," "Battlefield 2142," "Madden NFL '08" and "Tiger Woods PGA Tour '08" for the Mac. It was widely seen as an endorsement of the Mac as a gaming platform.

Six months later in January, Apple won an even bigger coup from EA when the leading game developer said it would release the much anticipated "Spore" from "The Sims" creator Will Wright on the Mac and PC simultaneously.

"There has been a pickup in games for the Mac lately," Brian Akaka, marketing director for Freeverse, told MacNewsWorld. "We're seeing some imultasMac/PC simultaneous relrease of major titles such as 'Guitar Hero III.' EA brought some of their big name sports games to the Mac, and Freeverse has also been very active with our port of 'Heroes of Might and Magic V.' All of these games are considered big budget games, and traditionally didn't make it to the Mac, or only after a significant delay. This has definitely been changing."

Handful of Games

Historically, game developers release between six and eight top games for the Mac each year, Adams noted, adding that 2008 looks to be similar.

Mark DeLoura, a video game technology consultant, takes a more measured view of the state of games for Macs.

"There has been a small increase in the number of Mac-ready games. It hasn't been huge, but it has been noticeable," he told MacNewsWorld.

For the most part, DeLoura does not see much commitment at Apple toward games, though there has definitely been an impact.

"Unfortunately, the Mac market share is still small enough, and game sales on the Mac small enough, that it will take more effort on Apple's part to really bring the game development community to the platform," he stated.

Too Cool for School

Among gamers, Macs are up against perceptions of being closed machines that just do not have the muscle to run more than casual titles.

Most gamers -- hardcore and casual alike -- simply do not pay attention to the Mac, according to DeLoura. "Mostly what I see is that if someone is a Mac user, they wish there were more games for it. Most of the Mac owners I know who are also gamers have a PC that they use for the game playing.

"The big sellers on Mac still seem to be casual titles, though, like EA's 'The Sims.' Hardcore gamers are still on the PC, where they have the ability to soup up their PC performance through new graphics cards, audio cards, processors, etc. The Mac is not an easy platform to upgrade compared to the PC, and this is something the hardcore community enjoys doing on the PC," DeLoura pointed out.

Gamers see Macs as "expensive, closed systems -- not too appealing except to Mac users," Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research, told MacNewsWorld.

Windows on Mac Any Help?

Gamers who thought they could get around the dearth of Mac games by playing Windows-based games with systems running BootCamp and virtualization software like Parallels should think again. Those machines also fall short of standard gaming demands, Peddie added.

"There's a performance hit, so no FPS (first-person shooter) or even heavy graphics RPGs (role-playing games) are played, just casual and [simulation] games," Peddie continued.

"I've heard mixed reports on this and haven't had any direct experience trying it," DeLoura added. "I think it varies depending on the way the game was programmed and what virtualization package you are using on the Mac. But certainly there will be a drop in game performance by going through the virtualization package, so hardcore gamers -- for who performance is usually more important -- will be less interested in this route."

Freeverse's Akaka takes a more positive view of gamers' thoughts on Macs and virtualization.

"I think that there is still some stigma attached to gaming on a Mac, but with the advent of the Intel processor, Boot Camp and virtualization software such as Parallels and VMware, there are now more options to playing Windows games on a Mac. Furthermore, efforts such as Cider and Cross-Over are making it easier to play Windows games on a Mac, without Windows," Akaka said.

"[Windows-based games run] surprisingly well [on Macs virtualizing Windows], except for some of the most graphically intense games. Macs typically use powerful CPUs, and the only drawback is in the graphic cards, which are usually low to mid-end, meaning that you won't be able to get a good frame-rate playing 'Gears of War' on a Macbook, which uses an integrated GPU. But 'World of Warcraft' should be playable," he concluded.

The Mac Gaming Renaissance, Part 1

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