Gaming on the Mac: Will macOS turn Sonoma around?

Video games are nothing new on the Mac, they've been around as long as Apple computers themselves. However, by the 1990s, the Windows operating system on PCs was able to establish itself as the go-to solution for gamers. But that should change soon – at least if Apple has its way. Because in the context of WWDC23 became, among other things, that Game Porting Toolkit presented, which is based on CodeWeavers' CrossOver code. With that and with the new one Metal Shader Converter and tools like MetalFX upscaling there is now the possibility of playing graphic and effect-intensive 3D titles on the Mac. Away macOS Sonoma there is also a game mode (gaming mode).

With the Game Porting Toolkit, Apple presented a powerful tool for transferring Windows games to the Mac at WWDC23. From macOS 14 Sonoma there is also a game mode that is supposed to ensure an optimal gaming experience. Here you can get more background and resources on the topic.
With the Game Porting Toolkit, Apple presented a powerful tool for transferring Windows games to the Mac at WWDC23. From macOS 14 Sonoma there is also a game mode that is supposed to ensure an optimal gaming experience. Here you can get more background and resources on the topic.

Reprogrammed Windows games for macOS in a few days

With the new digital tools for developers that Apple provides for porting Windows games, the same should run much faster under macOS. Instead of several months, porting with the Game Porting Toolkit and the other offers should only take a few days.

This suits smaller studios and individual developers in particular. But larger studios could also be persuaded to offer their games, which were previously only available for Windows, in the Mac App Store, Apple Arcade or elsewhere for macOS. However, Apple did not put together the Game Porting Toolkit for Windows video games on the Mac entirely on its own.

CrossOver code in the Game Porting Toolkit

If you've ever tried to play a game made for Windows on Apple Mac, then you've surely stumbled across several solutions. On the one hand, you can install Windows on the Mac – for example via Boot Camp. Furthermore, Windows can be used in a virtual environment, i.e. in a VM and via programs such as Parallels Desktop, run directly in macOS. Finally there is the possibility of emulation.

One of the best-known solutions for emulating Windows programs under macOS is certainly Wine. Wine is a free-to-use project that works more or less well depending on the app or game. There is also a commercial version of this emulation tool from CodeWeavers. This is called CrossOver and was implemented by Apple in the new toolbox for game porting.

In a CodeWeaversBlog after the presentation of the Game Porting Toolkit at WWDC23 it was said: "We are very pleased that Apple is using CrossOver's source code as an emulation solution for the Game Porting Toolkit. We have decades of experience creating ports with Wine and are very pleased that Apple has recognized that Wine is a fantastic solution for running Windows games on macOS."

DirectX 12 provides important interfaces for audio, video and input

CodeWeavers also announced before WWDC23, namely on June 1, 2023 in the company blog indicates that CrossOver should receive support for DirectX 12. The implementation is being worked on to the best of our ability. DirectX 12 is a collection of software interfaces or application programming interfaces (APIs for short) compiled by Microsoft. These enable optimal conversion of graphics, audio and inputs.

DirectX has been used on Windows since 1995. DirectX 2015 has been available since 12, and the DirectX 2020 Ultimate update since 12. The main components are DirectX Graphics (optimized access to the graphics card for 2D and 3D content), XAudio2 (audio calculation via the CPU) and XInput (for input devices such as mouse, keyboard, joysticks, controllers, etc.). Implementation in macOS tools and use with Apple silicon chips opens up new possibilities for running video games on the Mac.

macOS 14 Sonoma Game Mode: More power, faster Bluetooth

That from autumn 2023 on compatible Mac models Usable macOS 14 Sonoma will not only be able to run video games ported with the Game Porting Toolkit. Also with the new Mac operating system a game mode (gaming mode) is introduced. This should be available for every current and upcoming Mac game and give them priority when accessing the chip performance. Other apps and processes should take a back seat. 

In addition, the game mode from macOS Sonoma ensures that the Bluetooth sampling rate is doubled. Among other things, this reduces audio latency on Bluetooth headphones such as AirPods. But it also reduces the input latency with Bluetooth controllers (from Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, etc.), so that in addition to high-resolution content, smooth frame rates and complex effects, the input also leads to a satisfying gaming experience. Apple provides further details on this, e.g. B. in the press release to the new Mac operating system.

Thanks to the new technologies, also and above all Metal 3, the following titles will be available for the Mac according to Apple: DEATH STRANDING DIRECTOR'S CUT, Stray, World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, Resident Evil Village: Winters' Expansion, Disney Dreamlight Valley, No Man's Sky, and more. However, other titles that have been ported to the Mac, such as Cyberpunk 2077, are already being shown on Twitter and Reddit by developers and other curious users in this tweet.

Gaming PCs vs. Mac mini, Mac Studio and MacBook Pro

That all sorts of video games on Mac with Apple silicon should be able to run, that's an important step towards a gaming environment that could appeal to gamers. However, video games are not everything, other content, tools and possible uses must also be right. Apple benefits from the fact that e.g. B. Steam for buying games, Discord for sharing with others, OBS for streaming on YouTube and Twitch and other programs already run under macOS.

Gamers will therefore have to decide between various factors if macOS really offers ideal gaming options in the future. Because with Windows PCs, individually adaptable machines are available in terms of hardware and software, but usually at a high price. With the Apple Mac, you get a proprietary system that's not very tinkerable, but with plenty of power, good efficiency, and a stable resale value.

Depending on the desired hardware, you currently pay around 1.000 euros to 2.500 euros for an average gaming PC. For a high-end model with an Intel Core i9 processor, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 graphics card and 32 GB of RAM, as well as sufficient hard disk space and other important elements, you can quickly lay down 4.500 euros. And that's where Macs with Apple Silicon become more attractive. Especially the MacBook Pro, which already has an optimized, high-resolution display integrated.

The Mac mini with M2 chip starts at 699 euros, but can also cost 2 euros with an M32 Pro chip, 2 GB of RAM and a 2.699 TB hard drive. The Mac Studio with M2 Max chip starts at 2.399 euros, the version with M2 Ultra chip can be bought from 4.799 euros. The 16-inch MacBook Pro with M2 Pro chip is available from 2.999 euros, with M2 Max chip it starts at 4.149 euros. Basically, future-proof technology that comes with an efficient SoC and functions that can be easily combined with other Apple products. The purchase decision stands and falls with personal customization requirements as well as usable apps and devices.

Windows Games on Mac: Resources for Developers

It remains to be seen whether the Mac will be a real PC alternative for gamers in the future. Portable game libraries, gaming-related apps and tools, compatible peripherals and more will certainly be a factor to consider. It is also important to take into account the familiarization when switching from Windows to macOS. If you, as a game developer, want to port your Windows games to macOS, you can find out more about this and equip yourself with the necessary resources here:

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