Apple Makes a Play for AAA Gamers

Apple is making a modest pitch to get dedicated gamers back on Mac with its own graphics upscaling technology and quality-of-life improvements. While unlikely to seriously eat into PC and console install bases, the announcements from Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference this year lay the groundwork for Apple’s cautious expansion into gaming.
Software Solutions for Hardware Limits
Apple is counting on these advancements to make up for Mac hardware’s unoptimized gaming performance.

  • MetalFX: Upscaling technology that should improve the Mac gaming experience
    • Support for desktop, notebooks, & tablets
    • Launching in 2022 with No Man’s Sky & Capcom’s Resident Evil Village
    • Synergizes with Apple’s focus on higher resolution displays
  • Fast Resource Loading API: Improved loading times
    • Apple’s answer to Microsoft DirectStorage, Nvidia RTX IO, & AMD’s SmartAccess Storage
  • M2 Processor: The successor to Apple’s well-received M1 family is promising improved gaming performance
    • Gaming performance would be mid-tier compared to discrete GPUs
    • Power efficiency is a bright spot

A Victim of Its Own Success
While announcements like MetalFX are no doubt welcome among existing Mac users, they are also a reminder of Apple’s Achilles heel in gaming: a closed ecosystem. The same obsessive control that contributes to the boutique experience that loyal Apple fans love has in recent years driven away game devs and gamers. MetalFX and Fast Resources aren’t breaking new ground, they’re playing catch up.
What the Future Holds
Announcements like this or upcoming smartphone support for Nintendo Switch controllers indicate Apple is slowly opening itself up to gamers and their wallets. Desktops and consoles are unlikely to feel this, but premium notebook manufacturers and some software segments may see fresh competition.  

  • Vast Audiences: MetalFX appeals to both dedicated AAA gamers and more casual mobile gamers. The latter has already made Apple the third largest company by gaming revenue.
  • Notebooks: Premium gaming laptop brands like Alienware should take notice. The combination of MetalFX and the long battery lives of Macbooks make a compelling one-two punch. Apple’s asking prices are unlikely to bring in new gamers, but it now might be able to keep existing customers from looking at Windows for gaming.
  • Professional Customers: Apple’s pull on professional users has diminished in recent years, but creatives may like the appeal of a work laptop with the perk of adequate gaming performance.
  • Game Streaming: MetalFX would be a useful tool if Apple were to invest in cloud gaming, a logical direction for a company that already has a vast product ecosystem and its own media streaming service.