Unfortunately, the state of gaming on an M1 Mac is rather substandard. While Macs were never the top dog in the gaming realm, they could still be used for fun, effective gaming.
I remember, back in High School, absolutely loving heading up to the computer labs to play Halo: Combat Evolved on the desktop Macs my school had—albeit at 25fps max. Fast-forward to now and we're stepping into a revolutionary age for Mac devices thanks to the M1 system-on-a-chip. However, this hasn't meant even better gaming experiences.
This article will explore why.
Macs have never truly been an industry leader in gaming for several reasons. The nature of modern Macs results in insufficient customizability, smaller inbuilt graphics cards, different system architectures. In fact, the market share for gamers on macOS devices is so small, most developers don't even bother trying to make native Mac versions of games, which is just another reason to install windows on your Mac.
As a good indicator of this lack of support, currently there are around 7,000 games for macOS on Steam, while there are over 20,000 Steam games for Windows.
The solution to this was often to use Boot Camp, an app that allowed Mac users to install and run Windows on a separate partition of their hard drive. This allowed for streamlined access to the entire Windows gaming library without issue.
There were also a series of other tools available like Parallels and CrossOver, the latter of which provided a means to run Windows on Linux, macOS, and Chrome OS via the Wine open-source Windows compatibility layer. There is also Rosetta, a built-in translation process that allows some Intel (64 bit) code to be understood by new M1 Mac systems.MAKEUSEOF VIDEO OF THE DAY
Unfortunately, a lot of this saying does ring true for a lot of Mac users, and can help to explain part of the reason that gaming on a Mac is secondary to PCs. Not only are Mac devices hard to customize, they're actually near impossible to customize a lot of the time. As time has progressed, Apple has made the choice to actually solder on components like RAM inputs and SSD drives on newer generations of MacBooks—from around the 3rd generation in 2016 onwards.
The same goes with graphics cards where, for Mac laptop devices, there simply isn't the space to be able to modify your device to make it game worthy. If you're working on something like a Mac Mini, you can connect an external GPU in order to boost your graphics performance and run demanding games like the ones on the market currently.
Related: The Best External GPU for a MacBook Pro
This brings us to today's state of gaming on the Mac. Due to new system architectures being bought in as a result of the M1 system-on-a-chip, Boot Camp is now unavailable for Mac users, removing a major source of Windows simulation and accessibility.
However, without any modification, CrossOver can run on an M1 mac, with surprisingly good performance. This is true even though CrossOver is emulated to run its x86 code through Apple’s Rosetta 2.
Likewise, Parallels has welcomed the transition over to M1 with enthusiasm, with the Parallels blog stating that the team is "excited to see the performance, power efficiency, and virtualization features that are brought to the Mac with the Apple M1 chip." Parallels also uses Rosetta technology, promising a fantastic Windows-on-Mac experience.
Lastly, Apple's Rosetta 2 technology is an emulator designed to assist in the transition between Intel and Apple processors. As we mentioned above, it basically translates apps built on Intel architecture into something that Apple Silicon can understand and run.
On M1 devices, if an app or program contains only Intel code, macOS will automatically dive into Rosetta, beginning the translation process, and then launching the translated program in place of the original. The best part is that after the initial translation, your Mac will remember its own work and launch straight into the translated program straight away.
Related: M1 MacBook Air vs. M1 MacBook Pro: Is It Worth Going Pro?
Fortunately, this variety of platforms, programs, and emulators means that M1 Mac users still have options available to them to game to their heart's content. Whether it's simulating the experience of Windows gaming, or translating games that were once native to older Macs into new programs, there are still opportunities here.
I will be the first to say that the tools listed here are probably the best way to approach this, as the number of games that are available natively to M1 Macs is extremely limited, at just 28. Having said that, this list does include notable hits like Minecraft and World of Warcraft.
So, with all that being said, here is a list of the number of games available on each different platform or tool. This list is up to date as of the time of writing, and taken from Apple Gaming Wiki's master list:
This list also provides a nice summary of the total number of available titles: tracking 773 games, of which 597 are available on M1 devices (excluding iOS/iPadOS games). While, again, this pales in comparison to the 20k+ games available to normal Windows users, it does include many classics and new-age hits like Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty, Fortnight, FIFA, Grand Theft Auto, Hitman, The Sims, Star Wars, and many more.
While the Parallels team touched on this, it is worth mentioning that the pros of the M1 chip will most likely light a rocket under Mac users in terms of performance, speed, streamlining of system architecture, and more. This could mean that gaming on a Mac might end up being just as smooth and exciting as it is on a Windows device.
Frame rates, graphics rendering, GPU performance, battery use, and load time could all potentially shoot up, optimizing your gaming experience hugely. While this is mostly speculation at this point in time, it is something to potentially look forward to amid all the news of low accessibility of games for M1 devices.
It's not all doom and gloom, dear reader. While we've highlighted that there are some accessibility and logistical issues associated with gaming on an M1 device, there is still a lot to look forward to.
The biggest positives are the natural advantages the M1 Chip will have over other Mac builds. With the right software and hardware, gaming on an M1 could be just as fun and fluid as users have come to expect from other platforms. You might just have to work a tiny bit harder to get this experience at this point in time.6 Tips to Improve Your Mac Gaming Experience Read NextShareTweetShareEmail Related TopicsAbout The AuthorElliott Gooding(20 Articles Published)
Elliott Gooding is a skilled Digital Marketer, aspiring teacher to-be, music industry businessperson, and human of the humanities. Though he's charted an oddball course through the job and education worlds, it's left him with a wide berth of experiences across many different digital realms. With many years of study under his belt, his writing is welcoming yet precise, effective yet fun to read, and sure to engage you.MoreFrom Elliott Gooding
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