Year in review: Games
It was a year of transition for the Mac game market: old faces vanished, companies changed direction, and new players emerged. It was also one of the richest years in memory for new, A-list Mac game releases.
2000 was Aspyr Media's year to shine. The company's close alliance with porting company Westlake Interactive has resulted in a rich array of Macintosh game conversions culled from leading PC publishing companies. Whether it's strategy games, 3D action games, or simulation titles, Aspyr had something for everyone this year.
Aspyr's runaway hit would seem to be The Sims, a conversion of a million-selling hit originally developed by Maxis. The non-violent but compelling gameplay appeals to a wide swath of gamers. Its modular architecture, which allows third-party add-ons, has also helped to make the game popular and enduring. Other highlights included Deus Ex and Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, and Aspyr ended the year on a high note with several new releases to keep things fresh. The company has a strong lineup planned for 2001, as well.
MacSoft has traditionally been the leading publisher of games that appeal to the small but vocal "hardcore" Mac gaming community, but 2000 saw the company take a different tack. At July's Macworld Expo in New York, MacSoft announced a 13-title license deal with PC publisher Hasbro Interactive. The deal added titles that have more broad-market consumer appeal than the average first-person shooter.
It's proved to be a canny move. The company has released solid conversions of board game-style titles like Monopoly, Scrabble and Risk II; game show titles like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy; and inexpensive collections of kids' titles previously published by Hasbro. MacSoft hasn't moved away from more traditional computer gaming: before year's end, it announced that Rogue Spear and Driver are completed, it released Links LS 2000 as well.
One casualty in the Mac game roster this year was Logicware, which closed shop -- despite some reasonable publishing successes -- after struggling with contractual difficulties in 1999. As we went to press, founder Bill Heineman was still working on a long-delayed Macintosh conversion of Fox Interactive's Aliens vs. Predator, but the company is basically no more. Its employees have moved on to other venues, and its co-founder, Steven Parsons, has founded his own game development company.
PC game publisher Interplay put its MacPlay brand to rest at the end of 1997, but thanks to the effort of long-time Macintosh game maven Ron Dimant, the company was resurrected this year, this time under new ownership and with a new direction. MacPlay is now a subsidiary of Dimant's United Developers company, which showed its wares at Macworld Expo in New York.
MacPlay is back with new two new titles this fall -- SiN Gold and Majesty -- and is expected to publish at least five or six more games in 2001.
Long-time Macintosh game developer and publisher GraphSim finally stepped forth this year with its overdue Macintosh conversion of Baldur's Gate, the popular Dungeons & Dragons-derived role-playing game licensed from Interplay. The title was originally expected to be released in time for the holidays in 1999, but Mac conversion development delays prevented the game from being released until this past summer. Mac RPG fans rejoiced at Baldur's Gate's eventual release, as well. Mac game industry insiders are curious about what GraphSim's next move will be.
Naysayers were quick to pounce on Blizzard earlier this year before Diablo II's release. The developer/publisher had a reputation with Mac gamers for delivering Mac conversions months (once, more than a year) after their PC releases. Not this time: Blizzard released the Mac version of Diablo II, the long-awaited dungeon crawl action game, about four weeks after its PC counterpart. Blizzard announced that Warcraft III, the next installment of its popular fantasy-based strategy game, would come to the Mac as well -- sometime in 2001 -- along with an expansion pack for Diablo II. Insiders are hopeful that Warcraft III will be another near-simultaneous release.
Gathering of Developers
Gathering of Developers added a number of hot titles to this year's Mac game roster. After a quiet first half of the year, Gathering shipped Mac versions of Ritual Entertainment's Heavy Metal: FAKK2, Terminal Reality's 4x4 Evolution, and Human Head Studio's Rune. Gathering also has several other Mac titles planned for 2001, including the long-awaited 3D fighting/action game Oni, developed by Bungie Software. Bungie, of course, incurred the wrath of many Mac users when it was acquired this year by Microsoft.
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