Between a Mac and a Hard Place

Rejoice! Proud Mac owners are one step closer to almost being considered a serious gaming platform. Almost.

As you may have heard, EA recently announced four titles to be released for OS X; namely Battlefield 2142, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Need for Speed: Carbon and Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars. However, confirmed release dates have yet to be announced for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2008 and Madden NFL ’08, as Bing Gordon had originally announced at the WWDC in June that the titles would be released simultaneously across all platforms. ‘What?’, I hear you cry? Bing Gordon lied to us? ‘Fraid so, folks – but don’t be too sad.

id Software’s new IP Rage is also slated for simultaneous multi-platform release – does this mean that developers and publishers are taking Macs seriously as a gaming platform? That depends on your preferred machine. And your definition of ‘seriously’. If you’re a Mac enthusiast – or hater, delete as appropriate – you will have seen the new iMac designs as unveiled earlier this month. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have also been keen to see what lies beneath that polished, sexy exterior. And, if you’ve gotten this far, you know it’s not good news.

As any serious Mac gamer knows, there are two (count ’em, two) major disadvantages to Macs as gaming machines. Firstly, there’s the suffocating inability to customize your rig beyond minor alterations such as memory upgrades. Secondly, there’s Apple’s refusal to capitalize on the Mac’s potential as a decent gaming platform, and it’s the latter that gives me such a headache trying to figure out. Macs are predominantly marketed as consumer-level machines. Consumers like to play games – on their computers! Welcome to the world of tomorrow indeed. Not to mention Apple’s increasingly-strong presence in the consumer software market with their iLife suite. We won’t even mention iPods and iTunes.

So why aren’t Macs better gaming machines? The problem lies with Apple’s insistence on maintaining control over their hardware, and the lack of flexibility in what hardware to choose. Whilst the new iMacs look great, the fact that the best graphics card they offer is a measly Radeon HD 2600 Pro which, as pointed out in this article in Wired using these performance analytics lays waste to any potential Apple had to expand their presence in the gaming market.

So, given the recent ‘industry support’ for Macs as a gaming platform, should we get excited? Not yet. And not for some time, if we’re looking at this realistically. As a gamer that prefers OS X, it grieves me that my only option to combine my computing and gaming preferences is to spend $3,000 on a Mac Pro system, and for what? Madden NFL ’08? I’m a big fan of id Software titles (I still find Doom 3 on ‘insane’ difficulty a refreshing challenge – to run on my Mac above 300fps, at least), but will I shell out that much coin for a handful of titles? Answers on a postcard.

I find it staggering that Apple place so much emphasis on the ‘experience’ of using their machines and the value they place on the consumer market, and yet their (potential) validity as gaming machines is consistently overlooked. Never mind the fact that iTunes would make an excellent distribution channel for gaming content a la Steam. I’m off to play Halo. Yes, the first one – at least my Mac can handle it.

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2 Comments

Filed under hardware

2 responses to “Between a Mac and a Hard Place

  1. Haha, I remember back when Marathon was hot, Macs were temporarily considered good machines to have for gaming. There were also a handful of smaller developers around that time doing games on Mac that were kind of interesting…however those days are pretty much over.

    “Never mind the fact that iTunes would make an excellent distribution channel for gaming content a la Steam.”

    This is a good point. You can already purchase and download games on Itunes to play on your Ipod (I personally have bought Tetris and Pac Man this way)…if they would just expand that to games you can play on your computer, they’d be all set. It’s sad that in this respect, an Ipod is better equiped as a gaming machine than a Mac desktop.

  2. Battlefield 2142 and Command & Conquer are very good games. Do you use Mac only for games?

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