Hopes for WWDC 2013

It’s easy to forget that this website is specific to Mac games sometimes, given the lack of platform-specific Mac games. With that in mind, one of the (potentially) most important events in the Mac gamer’s calendar is Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), whether they realise it or not.

WWDC is typically the time when Apple announces (to a ridiculously enthused crowd) what’s coming up. Historically there’s usually an iOS-related event in February, but even that didn’t happen this year, meaning it’s been very quiet from our minimalist overlords. The last “proper” event was 7 months ago, which featured a slimmer iMac and something called a Fusion drive. This year’s WWDC starts June 10, when Apple will show its hand.

That Apple is secretive is something of an understatement, making it difficult to know what exactly will be served up, but regardless of what else happens, we know that there’ll be some talk about:

  • Mac OS 10.9
  • iOS 7
  • New games-related stuff (although that might only apply to iOS)

That’s not much, but various rumors also point towards:

There’s a bit of unspoken trepidation about what will be revealed. Apple hasn’t really revealed anything ground-breaking since the MacBook Pro with Retina last year. By all accounts OS 10.9 will be yet another incremental update, so the hopes are that we’ll see some interesting new hardware.

With that in mind, it’s time to fire up the iSpeculator, and see what Apple could reveal to get us Mac gamers excited:

iConsole

Probability: Extremely unlikely.

It’s been said over and over that Apple could dominate the console market if it chose to. With the Xbox 361 not painting a bright picture based on the information released so far, Sony’s PlayStation 4 looks set to take the crown. Apple have a big share of the gaming market right now, and although their target audience is perhaps not as hardcore as the Xbox crowd, there’s likely to be enough interest for them to create a console aimed at more casual gamers.

I don’t think that will happen though, firstly because Apple would do just as well to focus on spearheading mobile devices as rivals to traditional consoles, and secondly because it just doesn’t suit Apple’s image to be thought of as a games company.

Mac Pro 6,1 (2013)

Probability: Very likely

This will be a biggie. Pundits have been waiting 3 years for a new Mac Pro, and it looks like it’ll finally become a reality. Although the model largely lost popularity due to the rather good performance of newer (and lower cost) iMacs, it’s still used regularly for heavy number crunching and in industries like film post-production, to say nothing of dedicated Mac gamers.

By releasing a new Mac Pro, Apple will be revealing its position on more professional use of its hardware. Many have felt that by letting the Mac Pro line stagnate, Apple no longer has any interest in the high-end performance market. This has been repeated with a lack of decent graphics driver support for the Mac OS (although progress is steadily being made in that area with recent OS updates). Does Apple care about the high-end market?

The new Mac Pro reveal could go one of two ways. Either we’ll see a brand new system, packed full of cores, RAM, and CPU and high-end graphics, with plenty of expansion slots, or we’ll see something which is a sealed box (think a beefed-up Mac mini), completely unupgradeable, mirroring the rest of Apple’s product line. Let’s hope it’s the former.

iGamepad

Probability: Unlikely

There’s been a lot of buzz about the possibility of an Apple-branded gamepad, one that can be used with iOS and/or Mac OS devices. I don’t necessarily put much stock in that idea, mainly for the reasons we won’t see an iConsole: it just doesn’t suit Apple’s image.

That said, one of the main complaints about iOS gaming is the lack of a good controller (for situations where touch just won’t do). If you’d asked me last year, I’d have said “definitely not”, but Apple seems to be more open to consumer demands now than ever before. Even so, I suspect all Apple will do on this front is just provide a framework to allow third-parties to manufacture gamepads for iOS, leaving Mac OS unchanged.

Convergence of Mac OS and iOS

Probability: Very unlikely

Ever since iOS was first revealed, people have been predicting that it will eventually merge with the Mac OS. However, judging by Microsoft’s inability to popularise a hybrid operating system, I think it would be a bad move for Apple to risk alienating their Mac OS userbase by creating a more restrictive operating system.

Instead, I think we’ll see a bit more overlap between some of the frameworks between the two, perhaps the addition of Siri for Mac.

Announcement of new games/better game support

Probability: Unlikely

Although I’d love this to be the case, I don’t think there will be any announcements related directly to Mac gaming. They’ve certainly done this in the past with iOS, but to date I’ve not seen anything that indicates that Apple takes Mac gaming seriously at all (yet). I don’t expect to see them share the stage with anyone at EA to talk about what games are being brought to the platform.

That said, they did get Blizzard on-stage during the Retina MacBook Pro reveal to talk about their support for high resolution graphics (even if that was a completely self-serving way to show off the high-resoultion display), so I can’t rule this out entirely.

Announcement of new/better graphics support

Probability: Likely

To my mind, Apple is more likely to give Mac gamers some good news in an indirect manner. It’s no secret that Apple’s OpenGL support is a bit lacking, and I think we might get some news on a new framework that’ll make porting games easier (but don’t expect DirectX for Mac just yet), improvements to the architecture to get better performance out of Nvidia and ATI GPUs, and maybe even something that’ll make virtualization software such as Parallels run better.

Whether such a change will be significant or not remains to be seen, along with whether or not Apple will deem this important enough to talk about in their keynote.

 

WWDC starts June 10th. We’ll have live games-related coverage right here on the site.

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