We all know that you don't really buy a Mac if you're into gaming. Instead, you'd buy a console such as Microsoft Xbox 360 or Sony PlayStation 3, or put together your own Windows-running PC. Sure, there are games for Mac OS X and you could run Windows with Boot Camp on your Mac, but that's still not the ultimate solution. Quite simply, the number of games available for PC and consoles put what Mac users have to choose from to shame.
Did you know that in the early 1990s Apple had big plans to take over the world of gaming? In 1995 they introduced the Pippin, a gaming console manufactured by a company called Bandai. Pippin was running on a 66MHz PowerPC processor and had a 14.4kbps modem, and a 4x CD-ROM drive. It ran a customised version of Apple's System, 7.5.2 operating system. Reportedly less than 100,000 Pippins were manufactured and approximately 42,000 were sold.
Perhaps the idea of the Pippin wasn't too bad but the timing certainly was all wrong. In fact, it was probably one of Apple’s worst business decisions ever to launch the Pippin, right up there with the Newton and the Cube. Pippin came out when Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were already out in the market and with hindsight we can today see who won the gaming race. Sure, things didn’t turn out that great for Sega either but Sony and Nintendo are certainly still alive and well in terms of gaming.
So Pippin may have been a disaster but there are a few examples of Mac-first games. Myst is probably the best-known Mac-first. Released by Cyan in 1993 it revolutionised gaming in many ways. Also, did you know that we can trace the roots of Halo:Reach straight back to the Mac? Bungie actually developed Halo for the Mac first, before it was acquired by Microsoft and the space-shooter was steered over to Xbox instead, where it has been a tremendous success. Bungie was well-established on Mac with game-series like Marathon and Myth.
With the switch to Intel processors in 2006, many hoped that the situation would improve with regards to Mac gaming but little has materialised. Now, in terms of hardware, a Mac is not much different from a PC, but software differs, of course, as does market share, and clearly, the majority of game publishers still don’t believe there’s enough money to be made on games for Mac. So will the Mac platform get back in to the game, pun intended? The best hope we have today of seeing more games on the Mac platform is Valve’s Steam, through which several games, including Left 4 Dead 2, are now published. TransMeta’s Cider technology for porting Windows games to Mac has also seen a lot of use in recent years. Electronic Arts has announced it will bring games to the Mac platform using Cider and you can find plenty of unofficial ports online. I doubt that we’ll start seeing the big blockbuster games on Mac anytime soon but the situation should slowly improve.