The idea of gaming on Apple devices has long been an afterthought. You don't often hear the term "Mac gaming" said in any serious context and it can often be the butt of a joke in tech circles. Both consumers and developers don't often seek out the best Mac for the purpose of gaming, but what if that's changing?
Recently, I wrote about how the iPad mini 6 is the best mobile gaming device I've ever used, and it got me thinking about the rest of Apple's product line up, and just how well-positioned the company is to make a splash in a new market.
With just how powerful Apple's M1 chips have made Macs, the continued success of Apple Arcade, and the new Apple tech rumored, Apple could take on the gaming world in 2022 and beyond.
All of Apple's devices are super powerful
All of Apple's flagship devices are very powerful. The A15 Bionic that powers the iPhone 13 lineup and the latest iPad mini 6 are super capable of running a plethora of great games, thanks to an App Store that's filled with amazing titles, and Apple's own Apple Arcade service.
It's not even just the company's hardware that's got me thinking Apple might be gaming a gaming push. We've also seen Apple open up its software to make gamers' lives a little easier in recent years. Some of the best game controllers for iPhone, iPad, and Mac are the controllers you may have sitting around your house anyway since you can use PS4, Xbox, and PS5 controllers on your Apple devices no problem. This didn't always use to be the case, and I remember needing a particular MFi controller to play games on my iPad only a few short years ago.
The frame rate isn't quite as high as it could be on a decked-out PC, but you can play on the highest visual settings on an M1 Mac with 16GB of RAM.
Of course, when it comes to the Mac, you have the M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max, all of which have been providing crazy performance enhancements to Macs since last year. Speaking from first-hand experience, I have done more gaming on my iMac (2021) than any other Mac I have ever owned, and it's not just small titles either. I've been playing Baldur's Gate III on my M1 iMac and have been loving every minute of it. The gameplay has been mostly smooth, and I haven't encountered any significant problems while playing the game — especially since Larian Studios has released a few updates now that superficially increase performance on the M1 chips.
Now, it isn't a completely flawless experience — the frame rate isn't quite as high as it could be on a decked-out PC, but you can play on the highest visual settings on an M1 Mac with 16GB of RAM. Remember, that's only the M1; I would have to imagine the M1 Pro and M1 Max on the MacBook Pro models would be able to deliver an even smoother experience.
As I have been playing Baldur's Gate III, various indie titles, and a ton of Apple Arcade games on my iMac (2021), it's made me realize that I can say the phrase "Mac gaming" with a straight face. I have to imagine this is only the beginning.
Apple's headset to focus on gaming
My optimism for gaming on Apple devices is not just centered around the current powerhouse devices they have been putting out lately, but also on rumors about what's coming next.
We've been hearing a ton of buzz about Apple's VR/AR headset recently, including the fact that one of its major focuses will be gaming. VR gaming has been the hot new gaming craze now that it has finally become cheap enough for mere mortals to get their hands on.
I'm really curious to see what Apple does with the "Apple Glasses" (or whatever it ends up being called) because Apple doesn't enter a new market lightly. The Apple Watch, AirPods, and AirTag all shook up the market when they launched. Will Apple Arcade be extending to VR games? Will Apple be securing the same titles that we see on other gaming headsets like Oculus/Meta? Could Apple be planning its own Metaverse? The options seem endless, and it's really exciting to guess what Apple has planned for the future.
It won't be an easy road, but Apple is up to the task
Now, I understand that Apple can't just snap its fingers and all of a sudden be competing with Sony, Microsoft, and the other gaming giants of the world. After many years of gaming on Apple devices being mostly an afterthought, it's going to take some real effort to attract both developers and consumers if Apple wants to make a splash in the gaming world. But, Apple does have a couple of advantages.
It's going to take some real effort to attract both developers and consumers if Apple wants to make a splash in the gaming world.
First, Apple Arcade has been going strong now for a couple of years and has produced some of the best mobile games ever — even awesome indie titles like The Pathless have already made their way onto the service. So, it's not like Apple is starting from square one when it comes to developer relations. Not only that, but with the addition of cloud gaming services, like xCloud and Stadia, it's not like Apple doesn't have the option to heavily promote their hardware (especially iPads) as being the perfect way to experience those services.
And, second, Apple has a ton of money. It's probably one of the best-positioned companies to make a big splash in almost any market it decides to enter. Maybe Apple buys up a few game studios and starts making games specifically for its products? Is there any indication that's going to happen? Not so much, but it could happen; Apple has the resources if they want to take a leap of faith. Heck, maybe all it takes is Apple to design a special gaming edition of the iPad or iPhone that has a few extra features, like a fan to help with cooling, that will make the already fantastic hardware even better for gaming.
One thing is for sure, the future is wide open with possibilities, and while I'm going to try not to set my expectations too high, I'm so excited to see what Apple has in store for gaming in 2022 and beyond.