Last week I listed my top 5 reasons as to why Mac gaming is awesome. By way of counterpoint, this week I’ll be listing my top 5 reasons why Mac gaming sucks, and what can be done about it.
1. Poor performance
There’s no getting around this. Macs can’t compete with high-end gaming rigs, and that aside, Mac versions of games are almost always ports of the Windows versions (as is the case with those big budget games published by Aspyr and Feral Interactive), and worse, sometimes just the Windows version in a wrapper. None of these are ideal, and for the bunch of high profile indie games that are usually made available through the Humble Store, it doesn’t really matter anyway, but no matter which way you cut it, games like BioShock: Infinite and Metro: Last Light simply run better in Windows.
That said, do you really care about performance? Maybe you’re happy to have a decent experience at lowered levels of quality? Regardless, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, as developers like Blizzard and Valve usually produce native Mac versions of their games (that run just as well as the Windows versions), as do any developers using middleware such as Unity.
2. Poor support
This is a tricky one. Many indie developers (not to mention certain larger developers) are guilty of releasing a Mac version of their game, putting it out there for people to buy, and then washing their hands of it. Have a problem down the line? Too bad. Look at Ubisoft’s Mac catalog: you can buy a “Mac version” of Assassin’s Creed 2 or Splinter Cell: Conviction, but good luck running them on any OS released in the last 3 years.
Other issues that fall under this umbrella include not giving the game Mac polish, like “proper” full-screen modes or even just correctly code-signing the bloody thing.
3. High cost
Macs cost more and the games (at least, the non-SteamPlay games) cost more. In some cases this is excusable, Apyr and Feral Interactive do a lot of work to bring the games to the Mac, and deserve to be compensated for doing so; in other cases, developers like to charge a “Mac App Store tax”, where the Mac App Store version of a game inexplicably costs more than for example, the Steam version, despite typically lacking many important features from the Steam version.
But as a consumer, all you see is a higher price; you couldn’t care less where the money goes, and that sucks.
4. Limited catalog
There are no games worth playing that are exclusive to Mac OS.
Every single game available for OS X is also available for Windows (or if you lower your standards a great deal, iOS). On the flip side of that, there are a great many games that are available for Windows and not Mac. If I look at my Steam collection, I see that around 30% of the games have a Mac version (and I have review copies for games that I wouldn’t normally play, so I’d actually drop that number down to about 25% for games I actually enjoy), the rest are Windows-only. Don’t even bother making comparisons to consoles, it’s just too depressing.
On the plus side, there are a great many games that are available for Mac that are not available for consoles, so there’s something to take a bit of pride in.
5. Delayed releases
This is one area that really sucks, and it’s something that really needs to change if things are going to get better. Aspyr has talked about this one quite candidly in the past; a lot of the issues here are legal, and porting companies are trying to improve things. My concern though is about the companies like Rockstar and Deep Silver, who release Mac versions of their games without warning, months after release on other platforms. It smacks of a blatant cash-grab in some cases, and it hurts a lot more when the quality of the release is simply not up to snuff.
Look, publishers: I’ll happily cough up for the Windows version of a game if you tell me there’s going to be a Mac version included at some point in the future. One of the things I love about Blizzard’s games is that I can happily switch between Mac and Windows version without any issues whatsoever. I really like the idea that I can start a game on Windows and then maybe finish it at some point on OS X, even with the proviso that it just might not run as well. I’m even willing to accept delays, up to a point, just don’t do what Runic did and promise a Mac version of a game they never delivered.
The thing about all of this is, I’m not advocating that serious gamers go out and buy a Mac as their primary gaming platform. I’m really not. The simple truth is, if you want to buy a system specifically for gaming, you should get yourself a dedicated gaming console and/or a Windows-based system built specifically for that purpose.
Mac gaming is for people who happen to have (or plan to get) a Mac for other reasons as well. Mac gaming should best be thought of “my Mac can also do games”, not “I’m getting a Mac just for gaming”.
Get a Mac, be impressed at everything it does, whether it’s creating documents or media, or even just sending emails and using the Internet, and then go and get yourself a decent game, and be impressed at everything your computer can do.