Apple Takes Another Crack at Gaming

The world's most valuable company is pushing more into gaming.

During the first day of its 2022 Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple announced its Metal 3 API and a set of new tools to help developers bring their games to M1 chip Macs. 

With Metal 3, Apple is helping launch three major games—“No Man’s Sky,” “Resident Evil Village” and “GRID Legends”—and making a concerted effort to push more game developers onto its platform. It’s an uphill battle, but one being waged by the most valuable company in the world, no stranger to what it takes to disrupt a market. 

As of February 2021, Microsoft held about 80.5 percent of the PC market share, according to the International Data Corporation. Apple placed third in that research, with macOS reportedly holding 7.5 percent of the market. Even Google’s Chrome OS, likely in part due to its wider use in education and low price point, outpaced macOS, at 10.8 percent. Studies about gamers' computer choice hardly exist—and why would they? Windows dominates that market.

It’s no secret that among gamers, there is an anti-Mac stigma. And rightfully so. Macs are a status symbol, as are iPhones. They’re gaudy. They’re expensive. Owning a Mac leads to inferences of wealth. Gamers often haven’t taken well to flaunting of money (see also: how the gaming community reacts to the Web3 industry). 

Because of the low market share, game developers have deprioritized development on Mac as well. Few AAA games release with a Mac port. And that makes sense: If only 7.5 percent of the market uses a Mac, why waste millions of dollars to hire engineers who know the development infrastructure for that OS?

That said, Apple’s already making a major push into gaming. 

Between the time it was released in March 2018 and February 2019, “Fortnite” saw iOS users purchase the third-most V-bucks of any platform, according to numbers released in the Epic Games v. Apple trial in May 2020. That same trial also revealed that 70 percent of iOS App Store revenue is generated by mobile games and their in-app purchases. 

Apple has taken note, launching gaming subscription service Apple Arcade in September 2019. That same year, the Financial Times projected that Apple could spend more than $500 million in developing titles for that service. The iPhone is a gaming powerhouse already. Now Apple’s turning its eyes to the Mac.

A release of a new API and development tools are a start, but ultimately what Apple needs to figure out is marketing and price point.

The M1 Macs that began releasing in 2020 are powerhouses and technological feats within themselves. The M1 Pro, used primarily in MacBook Pros and the new Mac Studio, outperforms a NVIDIA GeForce 1660Ti graphics card, according to Notebookcheck. In similar benchmarks, the M1 Max beat out the laptop version of the 3080 Ti. Between the MacBook Pros and the Mac Studio, the M1s are further cementing Macs as standard to creatives working in entertainment, be it film and television, music, or graphic design.

A Mac studio costs $2,000, far exceeding an entry-level gaming PC. As of Tuesday morning, Apple has not revealed its next Mac Pro, the highest-end model in its line, but the current model costs $6,000. Even if Apple figures out how to coax game developers into further supporting the OS, there’s seemingly no good reason to spend that kind of money on a Mac, versus going with a cheaper Windows machine, if the sole use case is gaming.

That leads us to the second point: marketing.

Apple needs to figure out how to balance being a luxury brand with feeling more accessible. Right now it’s the Porsche of the computing industry. It needs to become more like a BMW, something that’s still expensive but able to be found used at a decent price point while still maintaining its character.

Enough with the status symbols. If Apple wants to make the Mac a competitor in the gaming market, it needs to focus on breaking down the walls that make it inaccessible. Lowering the price point will go a long way, but participating more regularly in gaming expos and other major events will also be vital to its success—if Apple truly wants it.

And that leads me to my last point: Does Apple really want to be a significant part of the gaming market, or is its current strong foothold in iOS enough? We’ve seen the company flip flop off many products before. Is this any different?