Non-native vs. native Mac games, and why it matters

Sections: Games, Mac Software

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Devil May Cry on Mac

The great thing about articles such as this is that I no longer have to justify them. By now, we all know there are countless great titles available to Mac gamers, and we no longer have to wait three years to get (most of) them. What’s more, they’re coming from everywhere. Indy developers embrace the Mac straight off their release (or at least their Kickstarter stretch goals). The Mac is seeing ports of not only PC games, but from iOS titles as well. It’s crazy.

However, not all Mac games are created equally. There are multiple ways to get a game to the Mac when it was originally released for another platform, and how it is done makes a pretty big difference in how the game performs. To help us understand this, Jon Carr of the GameAgent Blog called class to session in Mac Gaming 101.

As long as game runs well, the casual user or gamer probably won’t notice whether the game is native or not. Non-native games almost always have a performance hit, and this gets more significant the less powerful your hardware is. Otherwise, this consideration is largely one aimed at thinking about the greater Mac game ecosystem of developers and porting studios. You could run off and bootcamp or wrap a game, but then you aren’t playing a native game (in most consideration) or a game optimized to run on a Mac. And if a porting studio later releases the game on the Mac, will you buy it again? By playing these games first non-natively, are you undermining native gaming studios? Possibly. It is a tricky area and one I don’t intend to dig into here, just give food for thought. I do know that supporting Mac releases is a big deal and helps everyone involved, both the developers, and we the Mac gamers.

This is why when companies such as Aspyr and Feral Interactive tell you you can get great performance with 4GB of RAM, for example, you can trust them, while games from other companies still perform poorly even if you’re at or above the suggested hardware requirements. If the code isn’t written for OS X and for Mac hardware, it can’t take advantages of the strengths they offer (and avoid the weaknesses they impose).

Because Jon understands that Mac users can’t always get native titles, Jon used his second entry in the series to explain the various options for non-native games, with thoughts on which ones are best. Should you go with a Cider port of a PC game, for example, or just run the PC version in Parallels or BootCamp? And is there room for both native and non-native games in the Mac ecosystem?

Can both native and non-native sides go hand in hand for Mac gamers? The community is divided on this with some being open-minded, while others hate on anything that they don’t deem as a “native” game. I think non-native gaming has its place. We wouldn’t have such great games like Dragon Age, Max Payne 3, The Darkness 2 or The Witcher without these “non-native” technologies being used. Some of these games had rough launches, but other games do as well.

It’s a good read that explains a lot about how games make their way to the Mac, and why it’s often better to wait for a native game if you know it’s coming (at all). But because we don’t live in a perfect world, it’s good to know there are quite a few options available to us…and that Mac users are no longer the laughing stock of the gaming world.

I believe that’s Nintendo gamers now.

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  • Jon

    Enjoyed reading this! Thanks for the commentary and thoughts. I agree in that I think Mac can’t really be called the laughingstock of the gaming world anymore :)