When it comes to gaming on computers, Windows has always been the undisputed champion. Neither Linux, nor macOS, have been able to pose any meaningful challenge to the monopoly that Windows has on gaming on computers over the past few decades. However, this wasn’t always the case.
In the 1980s, Mac’s gaming performance was superior to Windows, and it was Macintosh computers that were the top choice for gaming, more so because of the developers than the consumer base. Developers in the 1980s found the Macintosh to be a great home entertainment platform than anything else. The fact that the Macintosh had better hardware, better input (the mouse input was a Mac original), and more advanced graphics, gave developers more reason to skew towards the Mac to develop games. It also helped Apple that their closest rival in gaming was Microsoft’s DOS, which was less than ideal for gaming, the lack of any form of GUI not being the smallest reason why.
But once the CEO of Pepsi, John Sculley, took over the reign as Apple’s CEO, the company’s stance towards gaming on the Mac changed. While perhaps now the consensus is that Apple Macs are more productivity-focused machines whereas Windows devices are gaming machines (on top of being great for productivity as well), this wasn’t the case back then. The Macintosh was seen as a home entertainment system and a productivity machine while Windows devices were viewed solely as computers focused on professional work, making them a popular choice for most companies.
The fact that Windows devices were deemed as a better fit for the professional world was not a perspective that Sculleycould be fine with. He set out to change that perspective through questionable methods by asking magazines such as Macworld to charge game developers extra money for putting ads on their pages and limit the number of gaming-related pieces on the journal. He wanted Apple computers to be taken more seriously, even if it was at the expense of becoming less popular with game developers.
Microsoft, on the other hand, noticed the gap that was being created in the market with Apple focusing less on gaming, and sought to capitalize on it by introducing DirectX, Microsoft’s Application Programing Interface for handling gaming related tasks, as a built-in feature for Windows 95 along with Windows Games SDK (Software Development Kit). It was after this point that the trends remained the same; macOS would always remain a productivity-first OS, while Windows tried to cater to all needs, gaming included.
Everything else that subsequently contributed to the perpetuity of this trend resulted from the decisions made back in the day. The reason why even hardware on Macs never accommodated gaming is also because of Scully’s decision. Scully’s decision is also why most Apple MacBook Pros’ gaming performance is poor, despite their great specifications in many respects. Until very recently, Macs never had the hardware capabilities, such as dedicated graphic processing units for gaming, to cater to gamers.
Finally, Macbooks good for gaming: A glimpse of hope
It seems like things might take a turn for Mac gaming performance. With the immense impact that the M1-powered series of Macs have had on the computing world overall (more specifically on the world of computer chips), it wouldn’t be senseless to see more video games developed for macOS. Dedicated GPUs that were only remotely capable of performing 3D rendering had always been reserved for the most expensive Macs. While dedicated GPUs have no place among modern Macs, you can get the cheapest MacBook Air at $999 or a Mac mini for $699 and still get a more than capable graphics performance. Previously, with a similarly priced MacBook Air or even a more expensive MacBook Pro, you couldn’t possibly think of running any task that was remotely graphically intensive.
All of this is to say that the new generation of Macs brings dramatically powerful computers in the hands of the average consumer. In fact, the Apple MacBook Pro’s gaming performance is indicative of just how much of a game-changer the M1 Max and Pro chips are. This transition also means that a lot more people can seriously consider playing graphically intensive games on their Macs, hence offering more incentive for developers to port their DirectX games to Macs’ OpenGL or Metal.
But all of that is wishful for the foreseeable future because the number of people with the latest M1 Macs, which are capable of graphically intensive games, is comparatively miniscule compared to the huge market of established Windows gamers.
This article may have had the unintended effect of portraying macOS as unfit for gaming. That is not the case! You can install Steam and enjoy gaming on your Apple MacBook or other Mac devices. The conversation here mostly centered on big releases that are never released on the Mac. Indie titles perhaps are the most prominent on the Steam library for the Mac. But if all else fails, you can still play League of Legends on your Mac (depending on its hardware capabilities).
If you are gaming on a Mac, you should probably consider staying protected, especially if you have a habit of downloading games outside of Steam or other established platforms. You should also know that Macs are prone to malware attacks and just because fewer people use a Mac, doesn’t mean you are safe from malicious software.