June 7, 2012
While OS X – and Macs in general – are great for most users, there is a segment of the digital marketplace that are not served well by the Apple platform on the desktop. That would be mid- to hardcore-gamers.
Macs excel at work and at play for most people. They have apps (either included, Apple or 3rd-Party) for email, calendars, contacts, web browsing, music and video, graphics/photo editing, business management, and just about everything else. They also have a fair number of games that run great on them, but they’re just not gaming machines. Here’s two reasons why:
1 – Game Studio Support. This is the biggest issue. While powerhouses like Blizzard (World of Warcraft, etc.) have adopted the Mac platform wholeheartedly, others like Sony and (no shock here) Microsoft Studios have not. The same goes for a variety of other development studios, making finding games for the Mac a rough ride. Even though there are lots of big-name games for the Mac, many are well behind their PC counterparts. BioShock is a great example, as the Mac version came out years after the PC version. There are some straightforward technical reasons for this (the games typically have to be rebuilt for different key combinations, OS code, etc.) but there’s also the fact that there are a lot fewer Macs in the hands of hardcore gamers to begin with. Studios write for their customer base – and I can’t blame them there.
2 – Hardware configuration. Talk to any gamer and they’ll tell you all about the mods they’ve made to their PC. They’ve added new video cards (often several of them at once). They’ve added over-clocked processors and liquid cooling systems. Basically, they re-arrange the guts of the machine on a regular basis. With Macs, that’s just not easy to do. You certainly could modify an iMac, but not without specialized tool kits and very limited modification options. You definitely can do it with a Mac Pro, but again there are limits to what additional hardware you can add. As for MacBooks, the choices are slimmer, and Airs are right out as everything is soldered to the mainboard. So modifications that are a normal part of the gaming culture just aren’t practical (either physically or financially) on the OS X platform.
There are other reasons, but those are the top two – it costs more to build independent Mac versions of games, and it costs more (and may not be feasible) to mod the hardware to the extremes that hardcore gamers want.
So, what can you do? Well, games do exist for the Mac – quite a lot actually. They’re not the latest and greatest, or they’re not the power-hungry-est games out there, but there are a lot to choose from. Alternately, you can run a Boot Camp partition with Windows and use most of the games on the market for the PC world – albeit at typically lower graphics settings for most of the latest games. Since Boot Camp runs Windows wonderfully, and since modern Mac hardware is pretty high-powered anyway, this may be your best bet.
But, alas, if you’re looking to play hardcore games; the Mac may not be the best platform for you.