Gaming on a Mac is Still Blah

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Digital Foundry does the best technical gaming analysis out there, and it was awesome to see them take a rare look at Mac gaming this week. They compared a maxed-out Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra and compared it to several PC systems to see how it stacked up.

You should watch the video, but the gist is that it's quite good, but it does lag behind the current high end cards from NVIDIA (and NVIDIA is expected to announce a big update within the month) and that game selection is poor.

John Voorhees has a good piece on MacStories, concluding with:

Personally, I’m a skeptical optimist with one foot in each camp. The hardware is heading in the right direction, but the jury’s still out on the software and Apple’s business plan to attract game developers.

As someone who straddles the Apple and gaming worlds pretty evenly, I of course have an opinion, and I'll try to keep it brief because this could turn into an hour-long read…

  1. In terms of raw power for games, Macs are in a better place today than I can remember in decades.
  2. However, with the move away from Intel, I can't imagine this has made the porting job easier for developers who want to bring their games to the Mac. The only types of games that are likely easier to run today than a few years ago are mobile games, which in my opinion, is not what we mean when we want gaming to really come to the Mac. I could be wrong here, so I'll happily update this if someone can find developers talking about how they're better able to do this now that Apple silicon is a thing. I could not find anyone saying this, though.
  3. I think Apple needs to do more developer outreach if they want to get the Mac more competitive in this space. More power is great, but it doesn't draw in devs on its own. After all, the A12 Bionic in the Apple TV 4K is more powerful than the Nintendo Switch, but I don't see developers abandoning the Switch for tvOS.

Long story short, I think closing the performance gap to PCs is great, and doing it in a far more efficient package is wonderful, but I'm skeptical that the needle will move for gaming on the Mac unless Apple does considerable developer outreach and primes their customers to think of the Mac as a gaming platform in a way they never have before.