How Apple (maybe) moves the needle on Mac gaming

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 1 min read

Dan Moren: To Embrace Gaming Apple Needs to Level Up Its Game Porting Toolkit

If Apple really wants to jumpstart gaming on the Mac, it should bake the underlying technologies of the game porting toolkit directly into the system. Make installing and running a PC game as easy as if it were a Mac native title.

The Steam Deck was my favorite new thing in 2022 and its OLED successor is a beast as well. But the Steam Deck doesn’t run Windows, it runs Linux. Basically none of the games I’ve ever bought run on Linux, so why do I like my Steam Deck so much? Well, just like Moren suggests Apple do, Valve has built a tool called Proton that translates basically any Windows game (or app) to run flawlessly on Linux. And it’s not just for Steam hardware, anyone on Linux can use it!

And don’t think of it as some sort of complex tool for nerds; I’d compare it to using Rosetta 2 on the Mac. Is that random app you use running natively on Apple silicon or being emulated from an x86 binary? Who knows and who cares? Whiskey is pretty cool when it works (sadly it often doesn’t), but if Apple can continue to evolve the game porting toolkit into something more user friendly like Proton for Linux, that would change the math overnight on how good a gaming platform the Mac could be.

All that said, I do still have some skepticism about AAA gaming ever taking off on the Mac. There’s really a cultural gap between what PC gamers want and what Apple is interested in making. But if like Valve, Apple can make it so it’s literally zero work for Windows games to run on their platform, it might help more than 2-3 several-year-old games coming to the Mac each year have recently.