If you're new to the Macintosh, or even if you've had one for a while, you may be interested in putting the work aside from time to time and playing games on your lovely machine. Macs may not have the same number of games as Windows PCs, but there are still plenty of places to get them if you know where to look. Here are some of my favorites. What are yours?
Valve's Steam service has been available for the Mac for a while now, and offers a pretty rich combination of indie and commercial titles for the Mac. They have their own Mac OS X section, which makes it very easy for Mac gamers to find what they're looking for.
What's more, Valve puts Mac gamers on a pretty even playing field with their Windows counterparts when it comes to sales and promotions — so you can usually get the same remarkable discounts. This weekend, for example, they're doing a free play weekend for the popular FPS Borderlands 2, with a 50 percent discount available as well.
I've already said my piece about what I perceive to be the problems with the Mac App Store. But those issues notwithstanding, Apple deserves credit for bringing forth a robust marketplace for Mac app developers. What's more, Mac App Store is baked right in to OS X and uses Apple ID credentials, which means that it instantly has a potential user base of almost half a billion accounts, many more than the total number of Macs in use today.
The Mac App Store features indie and commercial titles alike, and also keeps lists of top paid and top free games, so there's something to appeal to gamers regardless of the budget. You can usually find the latest hot releases for Mac offered here, but sometimes it's a good idea to compare to Steam to see if you're getting the best deal.
Even before the Mac App Store launched, MacGameStore came on the scene to provide Mac gamers with the latest downloads. In fact, they've been serving up games to Mac customers since 2005.
You can buy games directly from the web site, though there's a handy app that you can use if you prefer. MacGameStore regularly runs specials and deals, and if demos are available you can find links to them there too.
GameAgent.com started out as Mac game publisher Aspyr's way of reaching out to its own customers, but since then it's grown into an active Mac gaming service that offers downloads not just of Aspyr games but of other company's products too. They sport deals, favorites and games under $10, to make it easy to find something you might like.
If you set up an account with GameAgent, you can also use their Mac Match service to find out what games are supported on your system, taking the guesswork out of system requirements. You can also create a wish list, get access to special deals and more.
Mac game publisher Feral Interactive is a perennial darling of the Mac App Store, but you can usually find their games through other Mac game services too. If you'd prefer to go direct to the source, Feral is happy to take your money — they run their own Mac game download service, which is exclusive to their games.
Feral follows the "traditional" model of Mac game publishing — they license top rated games from PC and console game publishers, then produce and publish Mac versions. So if you want the new Tomb Raider game, for example, or XCOM: Enemy Within, you know where to look.
TransGaming is a company that mostly stays behind the scenes — they're content to convert games to the Mac using their Cider technology (which has its distant origins in the open-source WINE project) and let the publishers themselves to the heavy lifting. But they also operate their own game sales service, called GameTree Mac.
GameTree Mac has the usual Mac-compatible products from other commercial and indie game publishers, but they also sport the titles that TransGaming has worked on, which often can't be found through other services. So there are some exclusives there that might peak your interest.
GOG.com — what was once branded as "Good Old Games" — specializes in selling "vintage" computer software. They do have some more recent releases like Torchlight, for example, but much of their specialty has to do with resurrecting games from the DOS and early Windows era, recycled to run on modern hardware.
They're much better about supporting the Mac than they used to be, and you can usually find games for $6 — $10 without too much of a problem. Just be advised that GOG.com games are typically running inside some emulation layer or shell in order to operate and haven't been updated, so you're getting the real look and feel of vintage games, with their unusual control schemes and blocky graphics to boot.
GamersGate is another online service where you can download Mac and PC games alike. The service is clientless, just like most of the other services we've talked about, but one cool thing about GamersGate is that they have "gamified" the experience of using their service with a rewards system.
The more active you are on their boards — posting reviews, ratings, solving problems for other gamers, and more — the more "Blue Coins" you'll earn, which will get you discount on future orders. You'll also gain experience points, which will entitle you to special discounts on games.
More and more Mac game publishers are hopping on board with support for the platform for their own download services. Electronic Arts' Origin, for example, is where you'd go to download SimCity and connect to other players. Want to buy popular Blizzard games like World of Warcraft or Diablo III? Off to Battle.net with you, then.
So look around — Mac games are a lot more available than you might think. And have fun gaming!
Do you have other favorite places to buy Mac games? Sound off in the comments.