No Mac gamers means no Mac games, but it works both ways, too

Diablo IV on Mac
(Image credit: Andrew Williams)

If you're a big Mac gamer it seems like you're part of a very exclusive club. In fact, one of the biggest game companies on the planet says that it isn't worth making a Mac version of its new game because nobody will play it.

That revelation came after Valve confirmed that it won't be bringing Counter-Strike 2 to the Mac. The highly anticipated sequel to the massive hit that was Counter-Strike is on the way, but not for the Apple faithful. 

In a statement, Valve confirmed that there will be no support for the Mac when the new game ships simply because the vast, vast majority of players are on Windows. But as disappointing as this will be for those who would have played it, it's indicative of a bigger problem. A problem that Apple needs to fix if it ever wants the Mac to be taken seriously as a gaming platform.

If Valve says that people with Macs aren't playing games, how can they be expected to play games if companies like Valve won't release them?

Chicken, meet egg.

The Valve news came after it updated a Steam FAQ to explain its decision.

"As technology advances, we have made the difficult decision to discontinue support for older hardware, including DirectX 9 and 32-bit operating systems," the FAQ reads. "Similarly, we will no longer support macOS. Combined, these represented less than one percent of active CS:GO players."

As a result, Counter-Strike 2 will exclusively support gamers who play on Windows and Linux. That's a fascinating statement because as much as Linux users continue to believe that every new year will be "the year of Linux on the desktop," to my knowledge that still hasn't happened. So if less than 1% of CS:GO players use a Mac to do so, what percentage plays on Linux?

That tangent aside, there's no denying that Apple has a problem here. It continues to try to make the Mac a viable option for gamers. The macOS Sonoma update adds a dedicated Game Mode, no less. It's also made a big thing about making it easier for developers to port their games from Windows, too. But the fact remains that the state of Mac gaming in 2023 is a poor one. And it doesn't seem likely to improve in 2024, either.

But there's a very real chicken and egg problem for Apple to overcome here. Valve says that nobody is playing its games on a Mac, but that won't be fixed by refusing to release games on... the Mac. Developers and publishers need to take a punt and bring big games to macOS for people to play. The recent release of Baldurs Gate 3 shows it's possible. Will others follow suit?

Apple silicon's fine, but is it enough?

If there's one thing that stood out when I read the specs Baldurs Gate 3 requires to run, it was the fact it will work on a standard M1 machine. That's impressive indeed, especially when you consider the Xbox Series S was such a bottleneck to console development that there's still no Xbox version of the game weeks after it debuted on Windows and PS5.

But if there's one thing gamers want, it's lots of frames and buttery smooth graphics. Can the M1 manage that? No, of course not. Can the M2? Probably not. The M2 Ultra can't compete with real gaming graphics cards, either. Will the M3 and its Pro, Max, and Ultra variants? Maybe, especially if the iPhone 15 Pro's A17 Pro is any indication.

It's probably accurate to say that games like Counter-Strike 2 are aimed at a core group of gamers. The ones that spend big sums of money on the best cards, chips, monitors, and more. They won't accept a game simply running — it needs to run well. And maybe Macs just aren't quite there yet.

But again, which comes first? The grade-A GPUs, or the gamers? And will they come before the games?

It's a complicated problem to solve. Which might be why Apple hasn't solved it after years of trying.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.