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It’s time Apple gave a damn about gaming

It’s time Apple gave a damn about gaming
MacBook Pro 2021/ Forza Horizon 5 (Image credit: Apple/ Xbox Game Studios)

Sure, Steam is available on Mac and there are some AAA titles up for grabs from the App Store, but let’s be honest, Apple’s gaming pedigree practically disappeared when Halo vanished after its Macworld debut in 1999. Master Chief’s move to the Xbox felt like a death knell for it all. Since then, every Mac review has always come with one caveat: don’t buy one if you want to game.

That’s a shame because Apple Arcade is one of the best value gaming subscription services, and the most underrated, too. The range of titles Apple chose shows the team has the intuition needed for curating a good catalogue.

And now, to paraphrase Nintendo’s classic marketing catchphrase: the company is really playing with power thanks to the M1 Pro and M1 Max. These chips pack up to 32 GPU cores, which practically match laptops with top-of-the-range dedicated graphics cards. You can see just how great they are by reading our 14-inch MacBook Pro review.

But these numbers were purely for prosumer productivity, such as Final Cut exports. Since their launch, one question has been answered by a lot of YouTubers: how do they perform for games?

And the answer is a solid “OK.” The library of games that run natively on Apple silicon is extremely limited, with the only example being World of Warcraft, which runs incredibly well. x86 games (games built for Intel Macs) that run through Rosetta 2’s emulation layer are playable, but are nowhere near as graphically rich and smooth as what you could get from an RTX 3080 laptop.

Let’s take ZONEofTECH’s gaming test video as an example. Starcraft 2 on ultra settings runs at just 20 frames per second, which is abysmal compared to equivalent Windows laptops. And while devs share a small part of the blame (these games have not been updated to run natively on the M1), Apple hasn’t made the Mac an enticing place for people to game.

However, that’s what creative pros desire. We want an all-in-one system that crushes creative work but is able to play games: your classic “work by day, play by night” scenario. While the new MacBook Pros nail that first bit, they don’t come close to achieving that second part, and Apple should really fix that.

What do I want?

I’ve read a million other “hot take” pieces like these and have always been left disappointed by the lack of recommended actions Apple could take. If I’m complaining about something, I want to be constructive and provide a solution.

And the three-step solution here is ambitious, but simple on paper:

  1. Expand Apple Arcade: The easiest fix of the three — add another Apple Arcade tier that covers MacBook Pro gaming with some more traditional big budget titles. Basically, make the Apple version of Xbox Game Pass for PC.
  2. Encourage M1 Pro/M1 Max game development: The power and GPU cores already do really well running games through Rosetta 2. Imagine how they’d perform when optimized for M1.
  3. Snap up some exclusives: The name of the game is system-exclusive titles and Apple has a tonne of cash to buy some big ones for its own platform.

Come on, Apple. Now that you have proven your own silicon is powerful enough to hang with the likes of RTX 3080 systems on the productivity side, it’s time to unlock the true gaming potential. It’s time to turn every Mac into the all-in-one system they already have the power to be.

Jason England

 Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He specializes in finding the best deals to make sure you never pay more than you should for gadgets! Jason takes a particular interest in writing and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.