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Apple Needs To Get Its Game On 332

Posted by Zonk
from the step-up-to-the-plate dept.
BusinessWeek is running a piece exploring why Apple needs to get back into gaming. From the article: "Maybe Apple's user base just isn't fully aware of great games that are now available for the Mac? Sure, there are games to be found at the Apple store, prominently displayed in the software section. But does Apple market the Mac as a gaming machine? Adams says it should. 'The biggest thing that Apple could do is educate its users,' she says. 'Apple's message is so closely tied to iTunes and iLife and the iPod and these are all great selling points. We have a great relationship with Apple and they help us get the games ready. But we really need the users to meet us halfway, and only Apple can make that happen.'"
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Apple Needs To Get Its Game On

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  • Educating users ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alexhs (877055) on Friday June 02, 2006 @04:55PM (#15457804) Homepage Journal
    The biggest thing that Apple could do is educate its users

    Educate them how ? Like Bob or Clippy ? Like Vista (à la "You need more privileges to move that file") ? No, thanks ! :)
  • First Thing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by NutscrapeSucks (446616) on Friday June 02, 2006 @04:55PM (#15457808)
    First thing Apple could do to improve the gaming situation is to sell an affordable Minitower computer with a accessible PCI-e slot, just like every other PC manufacturer on the planet.

    Of course that would never happed because it would undercut all of their high-margin botique formfactors, damage the brand, etc etc etc. Style Nerds have more money than gamers.
  • I hope so (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Friday June 02, 2006 @04:58PM (#15457841)
    I have fond memories of apple gaming, back in the day. Karateka, Wavy-Navy, Oregon Trail, even Number Munchers.
  • by bersl2 (689221) on Friday June 02, 2006 @04:59PM (#15457855) Journal
    Convince more game devs to use OpenGL, libSDL, OpenAL, and other cross-platform libraries, lest they settle with straight DirectX. Ports become very easy (and presumably less expensive) to do, making it more likely that a port will turn a profit. And we all know how the suits love a profit.
  • by drgroove (631550) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:01PM (#15457865)
    This is the only logical step for the company. Microsoft and Sony both have their own gaming systems; Nintendo is the only independent company left still making a system that isn't also part of a PC/Media company.

    An Apple/Nintendo merger makes quite a bit of sense from a corporate culture perspective as well - Nintendo, like Apple, is the smaller, more personal of the gaming companies, focused on user experience more than sheer graphic/processing power. From a philosophical standpoint, their directions align nicely.

    Additionally, Nintendo could help Apple expand into the Japanese / Asian market with other consumer electronics, given Nintendo's HQ and savvy with that marketplace.

  • by Aaron England (681534) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:05PM (#15457908)
    Apple has a website [apple.com] dedicated to advertising the games that are available for the Mac. A cursory glance of the titles gives the impression that Apple actually has a large videogame library. However upon a closer scrutinization the games are a generation or two behind a series that is currently available to the PC. For example, Apple has Battlefield 1942, but they don't have Battlefield 2. Apple has Civilization III but they don't have Civilization IV. Apple has Ghost Recon but not Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. If Apple really wants to win over the gamer market they are going to have to end the typical 6-12 month delay that a game experiences before being ported to a Mac, if it is ported at all. Otherwise the gamers demographic will continue to be dominated by Microsoft.
  • by necro2607 (771790) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:08PM (#15457936)
    I can relate to what this guy is saying.

    Macs are 100% capable of running all the latest games, and doing it well. Hell, these days they are basically a typical x86 machine with a totally ideal OS. You can get the most recent powerful video cards no problem, so it's not like performance is an issue, especially considering that every new Mac has a cutting edge Intel CPU in it (other than the G5s).

    It would be nice if, for example, developers would use OpenGL more often considering it's actually the only reasonably cross-platform 3d API that has fairly widespread acceptance. I can't understand why companies willfully lock themselves into a Fisher-Price platform just because all the kiddies use it. It's frustrating as hell to me that game development companies are so shallow that literally all they care about is what will make them money.

    I guess I'm just too idealistic in imagining a world where software is written with adherence to cross-platform standards, where people can run the same pieces of software regardless of what platform they prefer.

    I shouldn't have to be locked out of huge portions of the software industry because I purchase the computers that work best for me. Unfortunately, it seems that "those who make the decisions" don't agree with that sentiment at all.
  • by AuMatar (183847) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:19PM (#15458028)
    Seeing as Nintendo has been an independent company for over 100 years, is making a shitload of money as is, and has never shown any interest in the PC market even when it rules games with the NES, I don't see this happening. Nor would the two cultures really fit well- Apple's strategy is selling hardware at an insane price premium via a combination of software and fanboyism. Nintendo is about selling low cost game platforms and making money on first party titles and licensing. A merger between Sony and Apple would be more of a fit, both go for the "our brand name deserves a premium" idea.
  • by Schlemphfer (556732) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:22PM (#15458047) Homepage
    >Apple used to have the premier gaming computer.

    Excuse me? All I can remember of the early-80s gaming scene is that whenever a game came out for both Apple II's and C-64s, the graphics and sound on the C-64 version would blow away the Apple version.

    Not convinced? Summer Games from Epyx. I rest my case.

  • by Psykechan (255694) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:26PM (#15458078)
    What Apple needs to do is hire the WINE [winehq.com] people or Transgaming [transgaming.com] to get something usable on the Intel Macs and include it free of charge (no Quicktime Pro nag) with the OS. This would be a stop gap solution as Microsoft is planning on destroying everything with Vista anyway but it would at least lower the "Mac's aren't for games" cries.

    First though, Apple needs to sit down with ATi, Intel, and likely soon nVidia and get their drivers in better working order. they have the push to be able to do this so there should be no reason not to. Currently, the Intel Macs perform significantly worse under World of Warcraaft under OSX than booting into XP. Yes, this is just one app but it is a driver issue. This needs to change immediately.

    Apple also needs to woo the developers (developers! developers!) to OSX. It's not going to happen immediately but if they can prove that there is both a market and a valid gaming system (get rid of crappy GMA-950, fix drivers) then they might have a chance. Developers are already going to have to switch to Vista's new way of doing things, they could also switch to OSX.

    So, first step: get the back catalog. Next step: get the developers. Apple has a serious chance here. They better not screw it up.
  • Re:First Thing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by C0rinthian (770164) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:32PM (#15458125)
    I didn't know Apple published SimCity...
  • Re:You would think (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mr_matticus (928346) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:33PM (#15458129)
    Better professional-level graphics tools does not equate to better gaming performance. You have to recall that "graphics" production involves a different set of software tools and hardware muscles than playback of graphics, so to speak. The word graphics has such a broad meaning that people often misapply it.

    PCs for the longest time (and even currently to a lesser extent) had better video cards available. Macs were still preferred for graphics work, because most REAL graphics work doesn't involve a video card except to view the finished product. In other words, you've got to build the camera before you get excited about the buying the best printing equipment to show off your work.
  • Re:You would think (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KajiCo (463552) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:34PM (#15458134)
    Graphics / 3D Art / 2D Animation and Game Engine development and Game Design are not all the same.

    Yes, Macs have been touted as better for graphics, that's not really true, but the difference is in the work flow, and the community.

    3D development is just as powerful on a Mac as on a PC no difference there.

    Game development is a whole other ball game, all the while Macs were running on PPC, it has made it very difficult for game companies to port their systems from x86 to PPC, not to mention that also the OS structure is different than Windows. Even though now Macs run on Intel, developers have to use tools for the Mac like Xcode, to take their Windows code, and change all that code to be compatible with OS X.

    Additionaly things like MS' DirectX are not available for Mac, so they have to make sure their engine will run under OpenGL using OS X's window displays.

    Games won't be "better" on Macs because it doesn't work that way, you're not designing something, you're playing with something that was already created. Something that was created for a larger market.

    While game development software does exsist where you can develop on Mac and port out to Windows (ie OTEE.dk Unity), the market share is very small.
  • by cowscows (103644) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:44PM (#15458206) Journal
    I know of a small sandwich shop down the street which is less about undercutting its competitors' prices, and more about providing a pleasant experience for their customers. Should Apple buy them as well?

    There's a lot of parallels that you can draw between Apple and Nintendo, but that doesn't mean it makes any sense for them to merge. Why is it bad that Nintendo is an independent company? Why would Apple want to outlay a huge pile of money to buy them? How many years would it take for that purchase to pay itself off? Would it even work? Even if there was no interruption to either business, and they both continued to turn a profit, the purchase price would be very large, and it'd take many years for the profit to cover those initial costs. Apple is doing pretty well financially, but I still don't think they can afford to buy their way into a huge market like MS is doing.

    Apple is already well respected in Japan. They don't need Nintendo's help. Nintendo doesn't need their help. I really don't see the logic in it at all. Sorry :(
  • by NutscrapeSucks (446616) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:50PM (#15458238)
    Of course, you left out the difficult part where you tell us how you will convince devs to not use DirectX. They certainly like it, so it must provide some advantage to them (lower costs, faster time to market, etc).

    Now with even John Carmack singing the praises of MS's "XNA" XBox360 stuff, OpenGL seems headed back to the workstation market.
  • by mypalmike (454265) on Friday June 02, 2006 @06:09PM (#15458364) Homepage
    It's frustrating as hell to me that game development companies are so shallow that literally all they care about is what will make them money.

    One day while working at Looking Glass Studios some years back, I was called to an all-hands company meeting. It turned out the meeting was the announcement that it was to be the last day of the company's existence. Why were we closing down? Money. We had none, and we owed lots. Everyone at the meeting was sad, from playtesters to the president. Why sad? Because we had a great team that had made some great games, and we were in the process of making even better ones. Not because we were money-grubbing pigs.

    The reason game companies care about making money is so that they can stay solvent and make more games.

    To your other point, every game company I know of uses some sort of platform-agnostic libraries/framework/etc. But compiled code does not a shipping product make. Optimizations, installers, QA, packaging, distribution channels, you name it. It all costs money, and if the result isn't a net gain, it means the company can't afford it. Do you buy things you can't afford?
  • Re:First Thing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 02, 2006 @06:25PM (#15458471)
    Mac users are not price sensitive


    Which explains why just about every Mac user I know pirates Office rather than pay $300 or whatever it is at the moment.
  • by subsolar2 (147428) on Friday June 02, 2006 @06:47PM (#15458637)

    Not ports to Xbox or Xbox 360; those become more difficult. It doesn't help that I've never seen a really, truly commercial-grade SDL game. (Although I've seen a few in OpenGL, or using some combination of DirectX and OpenGL.)


    Hmmmm I believe UT2003/4 and Doom 3 (Quake 4? have not tried that) use SDL for Mac & Linux Clients.

    I think they are "industrial strength" bah.
  • by NutscrapeSucks (446616) on Friday June 02, 2006 @06:54PM (#15458679)
    Even the OpenGL games run slower on the Mac. Apparently it's because Apple optimized the drivers for the desktop aqua effects rather than blasting out the videogame polygons.
  • by Tim Browse (9263) on Friday June 02, 2006 @07:03PM (#15458735)
    From talking to my friend the cross platform stuff just needs a lot of simplification and unification. He claims it takes much less effort to make something work in DirectX than OpenGL and that everything in DirectX, be it 2D, 3D, input, sound, etc is all done in the same way.

    As a general observation, to me this screams "My friend is not a very good programmer" quite loudly. If you disagree, ask your friend to show you, say, the DirectX code needed to render a single triangle, and then the same code for OpenGL. (Note: I'm not a DirectX or OpenGL 'fan', I just recognise that neither are perfect.)

    Again you come to economics. You are going to make, by far, more money on Windows than any other platform.

    Maybe if your 'other platforms' are Mac OS X and Linux. If your other platforms are Xbox/Xbox 360 or PS2/PS3, then, I'm afraid, no. It's actually quite hard to get publishers to go for a PC (Windows) game because the returns are so much smaller than for console games.

    For example, the new Mario Bros game for the DS sold 900,000 units in Japan in the last week. If a Windows game sells that many in total, it's a fantastic result. And that's a handheld console game we're talking about.

    If you get lucky and happen to write The Sims or WoW, then yes, you will exceed those sales figures. But those games are anomalies, not the norm.

  • by Rinikusu (28164) on Friday June 02, 2006 @09:24PM (#15459533)
    At this point, I really don't care. I'd be happy if Apple and Apple game developers took the Nintendo road and quit trying to chase fps counts in FPSs and concentrated on making, you know, great games. Differentiate the Apple market by focusing on producing the coolest, oddest, quirky, whatever games possible. Apple has enough money, I'd love to see them open a games studio, but instead of trying to break records with budgets, concentrate on making the best gameplay out there.
  • Re:First Thing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by snuf23 (182335) on Friday June 02, 2006 @09:27PM (#15459551)
    Or buys the "Student and Teacher" edition for $150 that includes 3 licenses.
  • by node 3 (115640) on Saturday June 03, 2006 @12:01AM (#15460122)
    OP: It's frustrating as hell to me that game development companies are so shallow that literally all they care about is what will make them money.

    You: The reason game companies care about making money is so that they can stay solvent and make more games.

    Spot the difference.

    No one is saying game companies shouldn't worry about making money, but that they should, first and foremost, care about making great games. Money just happens to be the second-most critical requirement for making great games (the first is talent).

    Think about it personally. Do you only care about making money? No. Do you care about making money? Yes. Big difference.

    To your other point, every game company I know of uses some sort of platform-agnostic libraries/framework/etc.

    Except for those that go with DirectX, which do, sadly, exist.

    Do you buy things you can't afford?

    C'mon, this is America. Of *course* we do. But no one is asking came companies to buy (develop) a game they can't afford. Instead, we just want them to make the best games that they can afford, and not simply make the games that will make them the most money regardless of quality.

    Of course, you might ask, "why should a company not seek the most money possible?" That's a shallow question (not aimed at you, unless it's a question you'd ask). Companies are made of people, and people will often prefer to be involved with a quality project. Companies exist solely to serve people, and people desire quality products. It's really up to the people in the corporation to choose the balance between quality and profit, although it's my opinion that profit is chosen in a proportion greater than the people involved would prefer, which brings us full circle to the OP's lament.

Why do we want intelligent terminals when there are so many stupid users?

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