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Summary:

As a gaming platform, iOS has really made great strides in the past few years. But what about the Mac? Has the Mac reaped any benefits from App Store gaming, or, if it hasn’t yet, will it ever? And does it matter to most Mac users?

tab-asks-mac-gaming

As a gaming platform, iOS has really made great strides in the past few years. Highlights include the casual game that continues to rule the roost, Angry Birds, the game-changing Infinity Blade that makes great use of the improved processing power of recent devices, and the very capable clones put out by Gameloft with alarming regularity. This week alone saw a slew of great iOS game releases. But what about the Mac? Has the Mac reaped any benefits from the App Store gaming renaissance, or, if it hasn’t yet, will it ever? And does it even matter to Mac users?

The launch of both Steam for OS X and the Mac App Store have definitely made more Mac gaming titles more accessible to more users. Top-tier games like Civilization V and Portal 2 are some recent highlights available through these digital delivery systems. Classic offerings that hold up well like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and BioShock are also great for new players who may have missed them the first time around. But triple-A titles seem to be the exception, not the rule. Both Steam and the Mac App Store offer far more casual and less ambitious titles than they do games from big publishers, many of which are still slow to port even their major PC successes to OS X.

Leaving aside the big players, there’s still a lot to love about recent Mac game releases. Gameloft is quickly churning through its catalogue of iOS titles, bringing its budget reinterpretations of the biggest franchises in gaming to the Mac App Store for prices that often match or beat those on the iOS App Stores. For example, Eternal Legacy, the game that clearly owes a debt to Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series, made its debut on the Mac App Store on Thursday and quickly rose to a lofty position on the charts. But the fact remains that the Mac is getting the leftovers of its mobile siblings; none of these titles were actually designed to be played on a computer first.

Original indie talent is one area where the Mac App Store is definitely helping out Mac gaming. Titles like the cartoony hack-and-slash DeathSpank that otherwise might only have reached a small, select audience of enthusiasts now have a much greater reach, which should help ensure we see more similar software down the line.

Still, overall, I can’t help but feel that Mac gaming still isn’t everything it should be. But maybe I’m asking too much. What do you think? Is gaming an important part of your overall Mac experience? What’s missing from Mac gaming, what’s going right, and what needs to see some improvement?

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  1. Jonathan Fingas Friday, August 5, 2011

    It’s a lot better now than it was. Especially now that even a MacBook Air or Mac mini can be used for some decent gaming. What we need are more studios besides a few key ones (Blizzard, Valve) promising regular support.

  2. Andrew Gormley Friday, August 5, 2011

    In general I don’t do too much gaming on my Mac aside from the occasional mulitplayer session in Starcraft 2 or a quick Portal run. Despite all of the OS-level improvements it still seems like even the most powerful system struggles to get these titles running at highest quality—no doubt because some of them were never optimized for Mac in the first place.

    I’ll stick to my PS3 to cover my gaming habits, beyond that I’d be more likely pick up my iPad before resorting to gaming on my Mac.

  3. I think the mid-level mini with it’s considerably better graphics chip (AMD Radeon HD 6630M graphics processor with 256MB of GDDR5 memory) is one of the best things to happen for mac gamers in quite awhile. It’s by far the best bang-for-the-buck for someone wanting to do gaming on a mac.

    Too bad the MacBook Airs all use Intel HD Graphics. The new Intel integrated graphics are better than the last generation, but they’re still a weak choice for gaming.

    The other concern is Lion, I’m a software (though not game) developer and Lion is much more particular on what your software can do. This is great from a security standpoint, but it may cause some real grief for game developers.

  4. I use an iMac and MacBook Air for productivity, iPad for games. After the iPhone and iPad were released, I have never really thought about using iMac/MacBook for games. My kids also use a Wii, and we don’t have other consoles. I imagine serious gamers use their machines for only one thing, so it probably doesn’t matter whether PC, Mac, gaming consoles, etc, as those machines are not used for productivity anyway.

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