Apple’s vision for Mac gaming is like climbing a mountain

DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - AUGUST 08: Apple is trying to get serious about gaming. (Photo by Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images)
DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - AUGUST 08: Apple is trying to get serious about gaming. (Photo by Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images) /

Earlier this month, Apple unveiled a host of new software features for their customers and for their developer base. These events always come with a sort of fanfare unlike anything you’ve seen from Microsoft, Google, or Samsung. The stakes are always high as the world is always watching to see what Apple will do next. Mac gaming was on Tim Cook’s mind as Apple went into this year’s WWDC, but there’s still much to be desired.

This year, Apple wanted to get their customers excited about a newer technology within the Mac ecosystem called Metal FX, a framework to achieve stable performance for games on Mac. According to Apple’s developer website:

"The MetalFX framework integrates with Metal to upscale a relatively low-resolution image to a higher output resolution in less time than it takes to render directly to the output resolution. Use the GPU time savings to further enhance your app or game’s experience. For example, add more effects or scene details."

Apple also states that there are two ways to upscale games using Metal FX: temporal antialiased upscaling, and spatial upscaling. With these kinds of upscaling techniques, Apple is attempting to directly compete with Nvidia’s DLSS, and AMD’s FSR.

These are image reconstruction techniques that allow the game to achieve a stable frame rate while maintaining a high level of graphical fidelity. It’s already been rumored that Microsoft is allowing developers to implement AMD’s FSR 2.0 upscaling to its Xbox Series X gaming console. PCs have been capable of this kind of upscaling for years.

It all sounds great for people who would like to game on their Macs. It’s also notable that Apple has the largest market share of mobile gaming, and the Metal API is meant for the entire range of Apple devices, not just those running on M1 or M2 processors. This creates a streamlined experience down the entire spectrum of Apple devices, which is going to be great for everyone involved.

But don’t get excited about the Mac just yet. While Apple may have announced that the graphically heavy titles of No Man’s Sky and Resident Evil: Village will be coming to Mac OS later this year, Apple still has quite the hill to climb, if not a mountain.

Apple’s technology is notoriously proprietary, unlike AMD’s FSR 2.0 which is itself open source. This leaves everything in the hands of Apple, and less in the hands of developers, already we’re seeing a misstep. It’s also important to note that Apple is looking to garner support for developers through the Mac’s App Store rather than seeking to further support games downloaded from Steam (woe is me).

This great technology, and a step in the right direction for Apple in restoring their reputation within the gaming community. But it’s going to take more than upscaling techniques to make gaming on a Mac something that makes someone want to buy the Mac to begin with.

Macs were never meant to appeal to the gamer

I’m a gamer at heart, and I’ll play anywhere I possibly can, whether that be on my Xbox Series X, my iPad Pro, and yes, even my MacBook Pro 16″ (2021). When I do download a game to my MacBook, it looks incredible. The Retina XDR display with mini-LED technology makes any game look unbelievable, and if I could experience Red Dead Redemption 2 or the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on it, I’d be salivating.

But it’s not why I bought the Mac, and it will likely never be the reason why I buy a Mac.

First off, noticeably absent from Apple’s conference was a conversation about ray-tracing, which is a graphically intensive task that require extremely powerful cooling systems. Yes, the MacBook Pro has one of the best cooling systems you can find in a laptop, but the chip is also built to be extremely power efficient, not graphically powerful.

MacBooks appeal to people like me who want a computer that is sleek, portable, powerful, and optimized to work with all the other devices that I have. While the M1 Max may have looked good in controlled benchmarks, real world tests have given us a different story.

dark. Next. Microsoft brings gaming features to its Edge browser

It’s proof that Apple has a long way to go before they can appeal to the market that they’re attempting to attract. And if you’re looking for an Apple device that can do everything an Apple device can as well as play intensive games, you may have to wait a while until that’s actually a reality.

Baby steps, baby steps.