Steam is dropping support for old versions of macOS -- and that's bad news for beleaguered Mac gamers

MacBook Pro with PlayStation 5 controller
(Image credit: Future)

Being a gamer on a Mac isn't easy at the best of times -- and that's despite Apple recently releasing some of the best gaming Macs to date. The company struggles to get game developers to bring their wares to the Mac, and until that happens Apple can't hope people will consider MacOS a viable gaming platform. It's the classic chicken and egg situation. And things are about to get worse.

If you're a gamer who happens to have macOS High Sierra or macOS Mojave installed, you might find that your games stop working soon. That's following the news that Valve intends to drop support for those two (admittedly older) operating systems.

Valve won't come around and uninstall Steam from your Mac any time soon, meaning there's a rub to this story. Because while the obvious thing for people to do might be to update to something newer, that isn't always easy. What's more, it might be downright impossible, too.

The problem

This situation all started when Steam posted a new page noting that it intends to stop supporting macOS High Sierra and macOS Mojave. The game maker says the change is required because "core features in Steam rely on an embedded version of Google Chrome, which no longer functions on older versions of macOS." Ever wondered why Steam is so unresponsive? It's a glorified webpage masquerading as a real app. It does that by running a build of Chrome, it seems, and with Google dropping support for macOS High Sierra and macOS Mojave, Steam has to follow suit.

And that's a problem. In the announcement, Valve said it wanted to "strongly encourage all macOS 10.13/10.14 users to update sooner rather than later." Because those who don't won't get any more updates, including security updates, nor will they get technical support if they ask for it. Should anything break, you're on your own -- and that sucks.

This all happens on February 15, 2024, so gamers have some time to decide what they want to do. And as previously mentioned, simply updating to macOS Sonoma isn't always the answer.

The bigger problem

MacBook macOS Sonoma widgets on desk

(Image credit: Future)

See, as Valve notes, "macOS 10.14 was the last version to support running 32-bit games on macOS." That means anyone running a newer version of macOS can't play 32-bit games. Portal and Portal 2 are two of the best Mac games and they don't have 32-bit support, for example, meaning they're a no-go on any Mac running newer versions of Apple's operating system. As a result, updating to macOS Mojave would break those games, which means updating isn't as simple as some might have thought.

There's another wrinkle to consider, too. Not everyone can upgrade to newer versions of macOS. Those with older Macs might not have the option to, leaving them with few choices but to hope that Steam doesn't break. Again, that sucks.

But Valve does have one point that's worth remembering: These older versions of macOS are insecure, and security updates are no longer offered for them. With that in mind, updating to macOS Sonoma or the latest version available to you is always a good idea notwithstanding the 32-bit situation. Because a safe and secure Mac is the best Mac. It's just a shame that gamers are now stuck between a rock and a hard place and there's no easy fix, unfortunately.

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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.