One of the WWDC keynote-featured additions to OS X Mountain Lion is Game Center for Mac. The service has been available on iOS devices since the release of iOS 4.1, but is only now making its way to Apple’s Mac hardware.
I find this to be a surprising move, as Macs have never been known for their gaming prowess. In fact, the lack of games and sufficient gaming hardware (GPUs) are two of the biggest complaints against the computers. Apple’s trying to convince its customers and prospective customers that it’s getting better, but the entry-level MacBooks still have subpar integrated graphics. And as for games: where’s my Mac-compatible copy of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim?
Personally, I believe this lack of games and the top-notch hardware to run it is a momentary setback. Like I wrote already, I think Apple’s trying to convince people that Macs can also be used as gaming machines – but the company has a lot to do to make that happen.
Most importantly, integrated graphics need to be replaced with dedicated GPUs. There’s a lot of performance that can be gained by using a dedicated graphics chip with its own memory and better overall architecture; the drawbacks, however, include heat and excessive power draw. It’s worth remembering that Apple is a company that is also excessive itself about the amount of batteries in its devices, so I doubt that would be an issue. Plus, it seems that the company is also trying new ways of getting rid of heat, so I doubt that will be much of an issue, either.
Aside from hardware, Apple will need software – games – for its high-performance Macs. Developers like Blizzard and Valve have been valuable to the Mac as far as gaming goes, but they’re not the only game studios that exist. There are a plethora of others that haven’t made any games for OS X, and that comes down to a relatively low number of users and the lack of gaming hardware.
If Apple is truly serious about Game Center and making the Mac a viable alternative to Windows rigs, then I think we’ll see some major improvements by the end of the year for developers to help make that happen. Apple has the ability to push GPU manufacturers to make hardware to fit the MacBooks perfectly and to reach out to developers and convince them to develop for OS X.
Until that happens, I feel that Game Center will be yet another gimmick from Apple. There are certainly games on the Mac App Store, but most of them are lousy ports from the iOS App Store. They’re not very good, and they’re not fun to play. What is fun to play is a great game coded for a Mac, a game that everyone is hyped up about because it’s going to be awesome. If Apple can convince studios to do that and can give them great hardware to work with, Game Center will become less of a gimmick and more of a benchmark for other platforms – and have an incredible effect on what it means to game on a Mac.