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Silver Bullet: No Games for the Mac

I can remember the exact moment when I knew Netscape was Screwed. It was an email from an engineer who attended a technology preview of Internet Explorer 3 and the bevy of other Internet technologies Microsoft had rallied behind following Bill Gates’ famous “Internet Wave” email.

I don’t remember the specifics of the email, but it read something like this, “IE3 does everything that Netscape Navigator does… it does it faster.. and it does a lot more… and they’re giving it away for free” Up until then, Microsoft had been tossing together half-hearted browser efforts with IE1 and IE2, but no one took them seriously because everyone knows it takes Microsoft three major releases to get anything right. Netscape dominated the browser space and thanks to a lucrative IPO, we had the cash and confidence to further that domination.

Most engineers didn’t sweat the IE3 email. They believed, “We’re leaner, we’re faster, we’re better.” I, on the other hand, was still stinging from my Borland days when we thought the same thing about Microsoft’s Office strategy and then promptly received a two year beat down which resulted in the dismantling of Borland’s office application organization.

I was watching with interest while Netscape engineering was singing our happy song of Monopolisitic Pride and our marketing department began to spin the message coming from Redmond, “We are Microsoft, we get the Internet, and we’re coming.”

This type of message coming from Microsoft is called FUD. It’s an acronym because we technology types measure progress by the number of useless acronyms we’ve created to describe what the hell we’re doing. The acronym is “Fear Uncertainty [and] Doubt”. FUD is usually an outrageous claim, an annoying fact, or an untrue opinion… they are statements which are designed to push someone else’s buttons and they are terribly fun to mull over. Some other examples of juicy FUD:

  • Macs are more expensive.
  • The US of A never landed on the moon.
  • Lee Harvey Oswald was not a lone assassin.
  • Windows is virus-plagued.

You get the idea. FUD is not intended to be a statement of fact even though it might be true. They are statements designed to tap emotion and get people talking and/or yelling. FUD is viral, FUD is sticky, and FUD rarely goes away.

At Netscape, marketing did battle with with FUD with a curious non-acronym. The answer was a Silver Bullet… the only way to answer FUD. A Silver Bullet is a well reasoned answered to whatever lame questions the FUD implicitly asks. Let’s see how it worked then and then we’ll see how it works now.

One of the key advantages Netscape had in the early browser wars was cross-platform support. Netscape Navigator ran on Windows, Mac OS 9, and various flavors of Unix. Of course, Microsoft knew this, so they claimed, “We’re developing Internet Explorer for Unix and here’s the company that’s doing the port!” The press would then rush over to Netscape, FUD in hand, and ask, “Whaddya think?” THe response would be the carefully research Silver Bullet for IE Unix support which read something like, “IE3 hasn’t even shipped for Windows, let alone Solaris or HP/UX. Also what kind of track record does Microsoft have shipping Unix products? None. Lastly, has anyone even bothered to pick up the phone and call this company that is porting WINDOWS CODE TO UNIX? HELLO?” The press would nod vigorously and rush back to Redmond, “Well, Netscape says you’re full of shit…” And the cycle continues.

Here’s another Silver Bullet with different chunk of FUD: “There are no games for Mac OS X”

This is pervasive FUD… particularly among younger computer buyers who live for the latest and greatest is key to existence. It’s also untrue. There are many games, but that’s not really the question. The FUD is “There are no good games for Mac OS X” and that’s a blatant lie. What is true is that a majority of the games produced for the PC do not show up on the Mac platform, but the majority of the games produced for the PC are crap, so this isn’t a big deal. I’ll explain.

I’m current playing Knights of the Old Republic. This was voted Game of the Year by one of the bazillion game magazines out there. I’ll admit even with a dual G4 in hand, I was concerned that the quality of the games ported to Mac OS x was going suffer. This was reenforced by my first experience with a Mac game, Sim City 4. The game was plagued with annoying graphics issues which were only somewhat addressed by a subsequent patch. Still, that was one game.

Knights of the Old Republic just rocks. Amazing sound, graphics, and playability. My fear that I’d constantly be aware I was sitting at my Mac due to game limitations has vanished. I lose myself with my dual lightsabres and I kick major ass and becoming totally lost in a game is the requirement of a compelling gaming experience.

Still, one game doesn’t not a gaming platform make. More good news. I picked up Knights after I’d completed Neverwinter Nights… another game of the year from a couple of years back. I had the same level of satisfaction with the Neverwinter that I had with Knights and I’m officially calling two great games for Mac OS X a streak.

The first part of the Silver Bullet is this. Yes, I’m guessing there are about 1/10th of the games there are for the PC. Believe it or not, that’s good news because the games which are being developed for the Mac are… wait for it… the good ones. Why in the world would Joe_PCGame_Maker push a crappy game on the Mac platform? They’re only going to invest in games which are proven sellers. This means, on average, if you are going to grab a random Mac game off the shelf, the overall quality/playability has got to be higher.

Avid gamers are still going to snoot it up when it comes to Mac OS X because most new games don’t show up on the Mac platform and that is absolutely correct. You can say the same thing about the PC when it comes to the Playstation or the XBox … and that’s the ultimate Silver Bullet: When you’re buying a Mac, you’re not buying it because you want a new game machine… you’re buying the Apple experience. Your primary function on this hardware is not playing games, it’s development, graphic design, video/music editing, or just about anything else you want out of a personal computer. When you’re done with whatever you’re doing and you’re done playing Halo 2 on your Xbox… there are some great games for your Mac.

When you tell someone you’re buying a Mac and they throw the No_Mac_Game FUD in your face, they’re being lazy. Someone, somewhere, at some time, told them that “Mac Games Suck” and that’s simple idea to remember. FUD paints a world of black and white and the good news is it’s all gray people.

19 Responses

  1. frasier crane 19 years ago

    yes you have some good games

    but they take a fucking year to get ported or more

    so have fun playing doom 3 in 2008

  2. erikh 19 years ago


    While you are right in the most literal of fashions, I think you’re dodging the point here.

    Anyone who buys a Mac to play games isn’t getting their money’s worth. People use macs to get work done. (well, at least I do)

    The support for heterogeneous hardware is vast on the intel platform – this drives innovation. The Windows platform arguably has the best support for games right now – and it was there long before the XBox came out.

    Porting games is a hassle, as I’m sure you can imagine. Some companies like iD software used to build portability as a design feature, but the fringe is so small that it’s pointless, and you have companies that specialize in linux and mac ports because no one really cares. When these companies stop making money on a specific port, they drop it – because they have 20 other ports to deal with. iD software on the other hand has a reputation to uphold, but that reputation only matters to – you guessed it, Windows PC Gamers. And iD as far as porting goes is one of the best. Don’t expect Half-Life 2 on anything but Wintendo and the XBox, especially considering that Gabe is ex-mickey.

    Sure, it’s nice to have a game for the mac from time to time – my only laptop is my powerbook, and I like having a copy of Civ around, but to plunk 2 grand down on a G5 for a gaming machine? I have better things to do with my money (and faster machines I can get for much less than that).

    Considering all the games I play are full-screen, the OS underneath doesn’t really matter past driver support.

  3. sungo 19 years ago

    Yes, I’m guessing there are about 1/10th of the games there are for the PC. Believe it or not, that’s good news because the games which are being developed for the Mac are… wait for it… the good ones.

    you know, i keep saying this about the nintendo gamecube. sure my xbox is cool and has great multiplayer games. but guess what? i’ve been sucked into playing metroid prime 2 for the last week straight. halo/halo2 only managed to keep my attention for a few hours at a time. *shrug*

  4. ironically enough, my G5 is saving my ass because my XP box died when I was reinstalling it. it had that ‘I was installed a year ago so I’ll start crashing randomly’ thing going. and when reinstalling, XP ate one of my drives, destroying about 150 gigs of data.

    thankfully, world of warcraft comes with both the windows and mac installers straight out of the box. so my XP machine is still sitting there while I’ve been haivng a great time playing WoW.

    blizzard loves the mac community, so you can add their work to your list of excellent games for OS X.

  5. brasten 19 years ago

    I’ve only been a Mac user for about a year now, switching from a lifetime of Windows usage, and *I* hated that no-games argument even BEFORE I switched. When I had my PC, I could play a lot of mediocre games well, a few decent games (if I upgraded recently) okay, and get productive activities done okay.

    Then, I bought a game console and an Mac. Now when I want to play games, I play them on a dedicated machine geared entirely toward doing games well. And when I want to be productive and do everything else, I use my Apple, which is built entirely with that experience in mind.

    Besides, typically anyone who thinks that’s a really valid reason to avoid Macs needs to grow up and get a job.

  6. Kindred 19 years ago

    Brasten- yes now you have 2 machines doing the tasks that 1 windows machine can handle fine.

    Personally, the gaming factor is a huge factor in my choice of operating systems, which is one of the reasons I (even as a software developer) have not switched to OSX or Linux across the board; I like to play games on my computer. Its another chicken and egg scenario- developers dont make games for other OS’s because there is no demand, and gamers dont switch to other OS’s because there are no games.

  7. QuiJohn 19 years ago

    To me, the “We only get the GOOD games” argument is FUD in the other direction. It sounds more than a little like sour grapes.

    Yes, many of the best games do eventually get ported to the Mac. But many don’t, and many that do only get ported after a loooooong wait. I don’t think Everquest, my personal #1 game of all time (though I stopped playing a year ago) ever made it. AFAIK, they started a port, then dropped it.

    What it comes down to is if you care about non console gaming at all, you need to own a Windows box. I’m not sure there’s any arguing with that.

    BTW, I just finished the Xbox version of KOTOR. I thought it was good, but I was expecting to be blown away after all the hype. I got it last December, and finally got motivated enough to finish it last week. Years of Everquest may have soured the single player RPG for me.

  8. Rands, you shall from now on be remembered as the inventor of the “Good games by obfuscation” theorem ;-).

    However, I appreciated the insights into Netscape and Borland. Like I appreciate your site in general.

  9. QuiJohn: Everquest was released for Mac last Fall in October of 2003. Though i will definitely admit that it took a very long time, it certainly did make it to the Mac.

    And while I’m here, I’ll throw in a little of my own opinion, and that is that I don’t think the Mac should be a gaming platform, I get annoyed when people ask about mac games. Or use that as an argument to not get a mac. If gaming is at the top of your list of what you want to do with your new computer, go buy a Windows box, but don’t tell me that the Windows platform is better just because it has more Games.

    The biggest problem mac users have with getting games is that a large portion of Mac users who want games pirate them, they justify it to themselves in many different ways, some claiming they never would have purchased it anyway, so it doesn’t lose the game company any business. Tha mac gaming community hurts it’s own.

    Consoles are for gaming, but my mac is for me, whether it’s time for business or entertainment.

  10. QuiJohn 19 years ago

    SWGS: Thanks for the EQ info… I didn’t realize that. I got out of EQ before then, so I must’ve missed the news. Of course, 4.5 years is still a long time to wait for an avid gamer.

    I agree that you can’t declare Windows “the winner” based solely on gaming support, but it IS an important issue for a lot of people. I’m now a console gamer after ~15 years of being solely a PC gamer, and frankly gaming is of vital importance to me. It’s how I relax (along with books, movies and music). It also motivates me to stay current on technology trends, which is important for my job as a programmer.

    At the end of the day, the mac vs. PC debate is dead. With few exceptions, either one can get the job done for any given task. Gaming is one of those exceptions… or perhaps I should say “advanced” gaming. Otherwise, it’s all about what you prefer. I’m stymied by the simplest of problems that my wife has on her school bought iBook, but I can squint funny at a Windows PC and give you a full system diagnostic.

    OS X has fixed a lot of old problems with MacOS that I used to make fun of. ๐Ÿ™‚ Windows 2000 did something similar for the PC side (with XP bringing it to the masses).

    One final thought that will show my remaining PC bias: isn’t there a good deal of FUD coming from the Mac side about how “Macs are better for graphic design”? Is there anything graphically intensive that can’t be done as easily on a PC? Any popular graphical package not available for the PC? It was PC’s that really pushed consumer graphical power to new heights thanks to (you guessed it) gaming. I know many graphic designers tend to prefer macs, but this is an argument I still hear in favor of macs on a technical level that just makes me scratch my head.

  11. There is most certainly FUD regarding Mac being a better design platform. My impression is that you’ve got feature parity for most of the major design products coming out of Adobe/Macromedia… and a little voice in the back of my head is saying that new features show up for PC before Mac… but I’m not a designer and that’s not the point.

    Designers are a finicky crowd… they’ve got high aesthetics and Apple hardware and software appeal to that crowd. Design is a feel process… not a think process… and having tools/hardware which appeals to the feel side of your brain has got to be a win. INSERT HAND WAVING HERE.

  12. Mr Ripley 19 years ago

    *sigh* Peoples, you will never finish this argument, for 2 reasons :

    1. Computer are tools, tools are used to accomplish certains task, each people has different tasks, and therefore make a personnal choice. Nobody else can comment or argue about this personnal choice.

    2. Nothing is perfect. You will always find something to nitpick about. From windows lack of security, to apple lack of games.

    Now, speaking of games, the real question to ask is : Rands how the hell did you convince nokia to send you a free N-Gage qd to play pocket kingdoms?

    I never saw a game related comics on jerk city… Did you sleep with someone?

  13. Jimmy 19 years ago

    Funny you should mention Halo 2 since Bungie began their life as a Mac only game developer, then became one of the first game studios to release for Mac and Win simultaneously and then were bought by Microsoft to release solely for the xbox. Funny and a little sad.

  14. Nicholas 19 years ago

    Design is only a feel process when narrow minded assholes don’t allow it to be a think process. You think Apple’s designers don’t think? Anything worthwhile is a think process.

  15. Jerkass 19 years ago

    KOTOR? You nerd

    (I beat it in 14 hours)

  16. SPIGOT 19 years ago


  17. Klaatu 19 years ago

    Rands, what you said!

    There is feature parity with Adobe/Macromedia. Many of the designers I talk to

    learned how to use the Adobe/Macromedia software on an Apple many moons ago, and prefer to use the Mac as a matter of expediency. More time to design and think, so to speak.

    There’s a whole world of MMORPG for the Mac…therein lies its veratility.

  18. I think more game makers need to take a lesson from Blizzard. The last two games from them Warcraft III and World of Warcraft came out for Mac and PC at the same time. Showing that it isn’t impossible to do (and the mac version of WoW works quite well, even on my powerbook G4).

  19. Patman64 17 years ago

    I read this and thought, hey, this is what I hear ALL THE TIME. The word “Mac” is now taboo where I go to school (high school) You just say it and, already, people are yelling out “Mac Blows!” “PC Rules!” yada yada. It’s hard being the only person who actually HAS a Mac and likes them. They haven’t even USED Macs before (talk about jumping onto the bandwagon!) I switched from PC to Mac a while ago (I hated PC with a passion by the end, and switching was the best thing I ever did. “C’mon, load. LOAD! AGGGH NOT ANOTHER CRASH!!!) Their argument is, there’s no games for Mac. I’ve learned to live with them and ignore their use of FUD. But, the ironic thing is, all I do on my MacBook is play World of Warcraft. No good games, indeed! ๐Ÿ˜›