Apple produces powerful computers and laptops capable of handling intense workloads. And while the company’s machines are widely known for being adept at video and audio editing, this isn’t the case for high-end gaming. When folks consider buying the best gaming PCs or best gaming laptops, Apple products almost never factor into their decision.
But things might soon change thanks to the Apple M2 chip, macOS Ventura and the Metal 3 API. With these, Apple hopes to make games look better and take advantage of the graphical capabilities of Apple silicon. Considering how high-profile titles like Resident Evil Village and No Man’s Sky are expected for Macs later this year, it seems that Apple is finally going to deliver high-end gaming experiences.
I recently attended an Apple gaming event to learn more about the company’s gaming aspirations. I’m a lifelong gamer who never once gave Apple computers a second glance because they weren’t all that great for gaming. The MacBook Pro 14-inch and Macbook Pro 16-inch with their powerful M1 Pro and M1 Max chips did little to change my mind. They’re killer laptops, but a waste for gamers. And while Apple Arcade is good for mobile gaming, I don't particularly care for those types of titles on a large screen.
Because of this, I was eager to see what the company had up its proverbial sleeve and if it could deliver the kind of high-end gaming experiences I was looking for. Though Apple still has to overcome certain challenges, the event gave me renewed hope for its gaming prospects. The company seems to be on the right path, based on what I've seen. It’s given me hope for what lies ahead.
What is Metal 3?
It’s important to briefly explain Metal 3 and why it’s important for the future of Apple gaming.
Metal 3 enables PC-level high-performance gaming on macOS Ventura by offering tools like MetalFX Upscaling to render graphics without taking a huge hit on performance. This upscaling tech can be seen as Apple’s answer to Nvidia DLSS, which uses AI to render graphically intensive games without melting your GPU.
Apple has a page dedicated to all things Metal. There are also a slew of videos for developers who want to use Metal 3 to create games. Suffice it to say that Apple hopes the updated API and its tools help entice more developers — specifically “AAA” developers — to make games for Macs.
PC-like gaming experiences on MacBooks
During the presentation, I got to see No Man’s Sky running on a 16-inch MacBook Pro packing an M1 Max chip and 16GB of unified memory. I emphasize that I saw the game since it was a hands-off demonstration. Though I wasn’t able to test the title myself, I was still impressed.
It came as no surprise that No Man’s Sky looked absolutely stunning on the MacBook Pro’s 16-inch mini-LED display. The demo was set in an icy valley surrounded by enormous snow-covered mountains. The varying shades of whites and blues appeared crisp and vibrant. Weapon fire and explosions also popped off the screen. Everything looked amazing.
Performance was somewhat spotty, with frame rates taking a hit whenever the action kicked up. However, since No Man’s Sky is still a work in progress, I could forgive performance hiccups. But overall, the game ran solidly enough for a beta build.
No Man’s Sky isn’t exactly a graphically demanding title but it was still surreal seeing a major game made for PCs and consoles running on a MacBook Pro. And not just running, but running well. Apple didn’t tell me more than what it had previously divulged during WWDC 2022 but seeing No Man’s Sky on a Mac was kind of mind-blowing.
I finally have hope for Mac gaming
Apple appears to be taking important steps toward having PC-level gaming experiences on Macs. Metal 3 seems like a robust developer platform, and combined with Apple silicon and macOS 13, the company could potentially deliver competent gaming experiences in the near future.
This point is further emphasized by the fact that Capcom — one of the biggest game developers and publishers on Earth — is bringing Resident Evil Village to Macs. If the company sees success on Macs, I don’t see why it wouldn’t port other games running on its RE Engine. Could we see titles like Devil May Cry 5, Street Fighter 6 or Dragon’s Dogma 2 on Macs? It’s not inconceivable.
If No Man’s Sky and Resident Evil Village succeed on Macs, it could spur other big developers to port their titles. Lack of support from major publishers is one of the chief reasons why Apple gaming isn’t on par with PC. But if more publishers and developers jump on board, then Macs could one day become viable gaming machines. Of course, it would mean Apple playing nice with companies like Epic Games… but that’s a whole other story.
We should also keep in mind that Apple is rumored to be developing controllers and an Apple VR/AR headset. If true, it would be further proof that the company is taking gaming more seriously than it has before.
We’ll see how things play out when No Man’s Sky and Resident Evil Village release for Macs later this year. If those games perform as well or better on Apple computers as they do on gaming PCs and laptops, we could see a new front in the gaming platform wars. That prospect has me eager to see what the future has in store.