Should Apple release a Mac for gaming?

Macs are great computers, but they’ve never been well suited for hard-core gamers. Is it time for Apple to release a gaming Mac?

Macs are some of the best computers on the market, but they’ve always had one prominent Achilles heel: gaming. While Apple has been very supportive of gaming on its iOS devices, it has never done so for the Mac. Gaming has been an afterthought at best when it comes to Macs.

But is it time for Apple to finally start taking the Mac gaming market seriously by releasing a Mac that has the graphics and CPU horsepower capable of matching PCs?

Cult of Mac readers share their thoughts about Macs and gaming

A recent article on the Cult of Mac site explored this topic, and there were some interesting points made by two writers, one from Cult of Mac and the other from Cult of Android.

There were also some interesting points made by Cult of Mac readers in the article’s discussion thread. I’ll share my own thoughts below, but here’s a sample of what Cult of Mac readers thought about Apple creating a Mac for gaming:

NG4: “I would give serious thought to shelling out extra cash for a Mac that gamed on par with PCs.

Not sure if I need Oculus level graphics…but the Mac has always lagged in graphics (display)performance on games.

Having said that.. my maps load faster than PCs and I’m usually killing the PC guys at the beginning of a round before they’ve even drawn their weapon. So, it’s weird…my old Mac pro 2009 can load the maps faster…but even at max rez on the cards they give us…it never looks as good as it does on a PC.”

Mac Mcintire: “Would a casual gamer spend $6,000 for a gaming computer?”

Diego: “Those guys spend up to $30000 for a gaming pc.”

Bigfoot Expert: “Is the mac pro considered a good gaming computer? or is it not good enough?”

KillianBell: “It's not enough because of the GPUs.”

Jonen: “Some benchmarks I've seen claim its a pretty solid performer. Not good for its price mind you, you pay about 4x that of an equivalent gaming desktop. But they can supposedly compete with an R9 290x. so they are not terrible in that case.”

Jchavez: “The hardcore gaming crowd might be too niche for Apple, but I can’t see why they would ignore the larger market of casual gamers like myself, who would be satisfied with even something you’d find on the medium to lower end of Razer’s lineup just to be able play most games on medium spec. Also, I just want to point out that VR itself is going to be a niche gaming activity for a while to come.”

GreenGirl: “With all due respect that’s rubbish. The ‘hardcore gaming crowd’ is about the ONLY CROWD that’s keeping the PC industry afloat (bulk dell dumb stations aside). So Apple finally having a desktop Mac that can / does support Nvidia (because of drivers) SLI in bootcamp and in OS X would dominate both markets.

I swore I’d never have another PC in the house after I switched in 2007, however now I’m considering a dedicated Gaming PC so I can run my sim’s in triple super wide screen at full detail / resolution. My iMac and my Mac mini will then be for every other type of computing I do (iOS Dev / email / writing / website design / watching movies / listening to music etc).

However I would kiss Tim Cook’s feet if he gave me a Mac that could do both.”

Kael: “The GPU is the one big thing that Apple really has dropped the ball on. I am also one that might go hackintosh if Apple can’t deliver a better GPU for games. It would also result in much better Macs as they offload some processing to the GPU.”

Brian Emershaw: “Should Apple build a gaming PC? Probably not. Should they build something unapologetically ‘ugly’ in their eyes, that allow people who are nerdy enough to install their own hardware in a PCIx slot? Possibly. I’ve bitched about that very thing over and over. But when all is said and done, they’re not going to do anything that tarnishes the physical beauty of their machines.

What they should do is accept that this is a niche market which they don’t want to serve, but still a growing percentage of their customers who are willing to pay more to do what they want anyway. (Woz would agree). All they have to do is just support Razor’s external GPU through OS X, and say ’Hey, we got you covered, you small annoying group of users who can’t understand why so many good games are now available for the first time ever, and why even more confusingly, Apple no longer supports them with hardware. ”

More at Cult of Mac

Hard-core gamers are still a niche market even in Windows

As much as I’d like to see Macs with better GPUs for gaming, I’m not at all certain that it’s worth the effort on Apple’s part to go after hard-core gamers. They are a niche market, even in Windows, and I am not even sure how many of them would buy a Mac designed for gaming even if one were available right now.

It seems to me that serious gamers who want to get every last ounce of power out of their computers will almost always want to build their own machine. That way they have complete control over every piece of hardware, and they can replace components whenever they wish to do so.

I just don’t see those kinds of folks moving over to OS X on Macs. They would have to give up far too much control to Apple over the components in their gaming system, and no matter what Apple did it probably would not satisfy them.

Macs already work well for casual gamers

As I noted in a post yesterday, Apple’s 5K iMac works very well for casual gamers like me. It’s not a killer gaming rig, but I’ve found that I can still have a lot of fun playing various games on it. And I think this idea applies to other Macs as well, they perform at a more than acceptable level for casual gaming.

Hardware aside, Macs also have less games available to play than Windows anyway. That’s a sad but true fact, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. So when we think about serious gamers, we have to admit that they are almost always going to opt for Windows instead of OS X.

Don’t get me wrong here, Mac gamers still get some very good games. You can see that for yourself if you spend some time checking out the games category in the Mac App Store. There’s some very fun stuff available there, with more being added all the time. But the selection is nowhere near being on par with Windows, and that’s the ugly reality that Mac gamers have to face.

mac gaming

The Mac can't match Windows for the sheer number of games available, but the Mac App Store does have some good titles.

Oculus Rift and virtual reality gaming don’t matter much right now

As far as Oculus Rift goes, that kind of virtual reality gaming is an even more niche market right now. That may change in a few years but it’s not something that most gamers - Mac or otherwise - probably care much about at this point.

Apple may, of course, make some changes at some point in the GPUs and other hardware that come in Macs if they think that virtual reality gaming will be important to their customer base. Tim Cook has already said that he actually doesn’t consider virtual reality to be a niche and that it has some interesting applications.

So it’s very clear that Apple is aware of the potential of virtual reality. But it remains to be seen if the company is thinking of this in a gaming context, or if they are focused on other aspects of virtual reality technology. We’re just going to have to wait and see what they do with VR in the future.

Don’t hold your breath for a gaming Mac

Virtual reality aside, I wouldn’t hold your breath for a Mac that is designed primarily for gaming. Mac sales have been doing very well as is, even in the face of a declining PC market. And so I don’t see anything in the short term that would motivate Apple to offer a gaming Mac.

Nor do I see a hue and cry coming from Mac users for a high-end machine geared toward playing games. Oh sure, I have no doubt that some Mac users would enjoy a beefed up gaming experience in OS X. But the lack of one doesn’t seem to be affecting people’s decision to buy Macs instead of Windows PCs.

Perhaps the best option for Mac users who want a serious gaming machine would be to buy a gaming console like the Xbox, Playstation or Nintendo 3DS. Each of these systems offers hundreds of different games in all of the various gaming genres.

I bought a 3DS a while back and it’s one of the best gaming machines I’ve ever owned. And part of the reason for that is that it’s designed to do one thing: play games. That’s all it does and it does it very well indeed.

Macs, on the other hand, are designed to do many different things. So I don’t think we’ll ever see one that can match a dedicated console when it comes to gaming. And that’s fine by me, by owning a Mac and a gaming console I get the best of both worlds.

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