I recently completed the excellent game Batman Arkham Asylum on my Mac. It is amazing at how gaming has come so far over the past decade. For once I actually felt like I was a superhero, beating up thugs and fighting bad guys and doing generally all round good stuff. If anyone has not yet played either of the Batman games, I order you to go out and purchase one of them now. You will not be disappointed, even if you are not a Batman fan.
Now that I have finished Arkham Asylum, however, I am in the market for a new game for my Mac. I already have plenty – Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, Postal 2, Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, the list goes on. However, you will notice that all these games, with the exception of Diablo 3, are at least two years old. Heck, Arkham Asylum was already considered old news by the time it was released for Mac in November 2011. The game was two years old at that stage, and its sequel, Arkham City, was already entertaining gamers on both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 (the Windows version was released later that month). Why would Rocksteady Studios and Feral Interactive, the latter being the company who ported the game over to the Mac, bother with a two year old game when they could just as easily released a brand new game for the Mac instead? Arkham Asylum is currently retailing for €31.99 on the Mac App Store. This, in my opinion, is much too expensive for a three year old game. I don’t know many people who would be willing to pay that amount of money for a game that dated. If they had released Arkham City instead, and sold it for €50, they would have sold a lot more copies, and probably have made a bigger profit.
Another example is the Grand Theft Auto series of Mac ports. The most recent of these, San Andreas, was originally released on the Playstation 2 in October 2004, and Windows in mid 2005. In those days, Sony got the rights to sell the game several months ahead of everyone else. Nowadays Rockstar’s games are released pretty much simultaneously for all platforms. Except the Mac. I recently paid €11.99 to purchase San Andreas from the Mac App Store. Yes €11.99 for an eight year old game. There have been no rumours of Rockstar’s newer games being ported to the Mac. Instead, they seem content hauling in the cash for ports of previous generation ones. What is going on people? Is the Mac destined to become a graveyard for old titles, with developers hoping to make a quick buck from us unfortunate gamers who have decided to pick a superior operating system? It would seem that way.
One developer, who has bitten the bullet and is now releasing Mac and Windows versions of its games simultaneously, is Blizzard. They have promised to develop all their future titles for both Windows and Mac. I bought Diablo 3 when it was released , but I could count on one hand the number of hours I have played it. In hindsight, I really only bought it because (a) there was so much hype about it, and (b) it was being released for the Mac. While there is no doubting the popularity of the game, and many gamers enjoy it, it just isn’t my type of game. My point here is that there is a huge lack of variety of genres of games on the Mac. When I finish playing one game, I shouldn’t have to wait resort to buying titles which I am only half interested in, just because they are available for my platform. There should be titles available which I am genuinely interested in. Gamers want a choice of titles.
Another major Blizzard title, Starcraft 2, is also on my Mac. This is one of my favourites of all time, and I still play it almost on a daily basis, even though it is a two year old game. But I am now in the market for something new to play on my Mac.
There are two main stores for Mac users to buy games – The Mac App Store, and Steam. The Mac App Store is in no shortage of major titles. Looking at the top twenty, there are titles such as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Star Wars, Total War, Civilization. But the most recent of any of these, Civilization 5, is two years old. The rest of the list is populated with smaller titles or “indie games”.
Looking at the Steam Store, the situation is not much better. Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 are the main highlights. Portal 2 is over a year old at this stage. The arrival of Steam on the Mac has not done an awful lot to help the situation of Mac gaming, but it is better than nothing I suppose.
Earlier this week, EA announced that they will be bringing their popular Steam competitor Origin to the Mac. Could this be a light at the end of the tunnel for us Mac gamers? Or is it just a false hope, like Steam? Will they just port old titles over, or will it turn into a store for mainly indie games, or a hybrid of both? I am eager to find out the answer.
Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against indie games. In fact there are some amazing indie games out there. But gamers also want big titles. They want to be able to play online with their friends, and keep up to date with the latest trends in the gaming world. They want to be able to play the new Assassin’s Creed or Grand Theft Auto as soon as it comes out, not two or more years afterwards. Many Mac users are gamers too, who like more than just indies or outdated titles. It is important for major games studios to note that the Mac’s market share has skyrocketed in the past couple of years. They should start getting their act together and jump on the bandwagon. For everyone’s sake.
Also, Apple recently released Game Center for Mac. So far, there are very few games available that utilize it. I personally do not have much hope for it, as Apple need to get the major studios on board if it is to have any long term future. Mobile gaming is a different subject altogether, and it is already doing fine on iOS.
So, to summarize, I feel the current state of gaming on the Mac is pretty much in the same place that it always was, which is poor. There is no real incentive for gamers to purchase a Mac. The new Macs which have recently been released have a huge amount of processing power, and definitely have the hardware specifications necessary to run the latest games. Any machine that is able to run Batman Arkham Asylum should also be able to run Arkham City. Graphically, both games are about the same. Games studios should be jumping with joy about the fact that Macs are now serious processing powerhouses, and releasing their games on the Mac. So far, there is not much signs of that happening.
Unless the major games studios get their act together very quickly, I do not see much of a future of having a Mac as a gamer’s machine of choice. Apple also need to do something about this, and make sure they get these developers on board. There is a large portion of Windows gamers who would love to own a Mac, but they can’t because their favourite titles are not available for the Mac. Apple need to start tapping into that market. They have no excuse not to.