Mac gaming: Better to wait than turn to Boot Camp

Sometimes it’s not a question of can you, it’s a question of should you.

TransGaming deserves a lot of credit. While its “Cider” translation technology may not be perfect, the company has sought to resolve one of the single biggest complaints that Mac gamers have had over the years: The long lag time between Mac and PC releases of the same game.

Not all of TransGaming’s Mac releases have been same-day, same-date, but the company has proven that it can be done with titles like The Sims 3 and Spore, and I think that’s great. From my conversations with TransGaming executives over the years, I know that this is vital to the company’s overall business strategy. TransGaming understands as well as anyone that a Mac game that lags behind its PC counterpart isn’t nearly as appealing to some consumers.

That’s a goal to work toward, but today many Mac games—including a fair number that TransGaming has released or been involved in the development of—lag behind their PC counterparts. There are a lot of reasons why this happens: contractual issues, for example, or a lack of flexibility in the workflow from the original game developer that might prevent or inhibit a Mac version from happening at the same time. There might be a lack of interest in the Mac market from the publisher, or it could boil down to a simple numbers game—Mac games sell in much, much smaller quantities than their PC counterparts, even for the most successful Mac games.

There’s an inevitable reaction, whenever someone announces a Mac game conversion that will come out months—or in some cases, a year or more—behind its PC counterpart. People come out of the woodwork to smugly announce on Web site forums that they’ve been playing the game for weeks, nay, months, in Windows on the Boot Camp partition of their Intel-based Mac.

The Boot Camp announcement is often accompanied by some form of indignation at having to pay more for the same Mac product than its PC counterpart.

When TransGaming or other companies such as Blizzard Entertainment are able to put the same PC and Mac game on the same DVD, that issue is ameliorated—Mac and PC users pay the same price for the same product.

But in the case of Mac-only releases, those who complain about prices conveniently forget—or simply don’t care—that Mac game publishers are paying big up-front license fees to bring these games to the Mac, have development and quality assurance staffs of their own, and assume the burden of marketing and distribution fees that aren’t amortized by the war chest of a bigger PC game publisher. I know the people who are bringing you Mac games, and trust me, none of them are swimming in bucketloads of money.

Getting back to Boot Camp, listen, I’m not stupid or blind. I know Boot Camp has become a reality since the Intel hardware transition for Mac users who need—or at least want—to be able to run software that they can’t get on the Mac. And it serves a need, I readily admit. I have a Boot Camp partition set up on the computer I’m writing this editorial from, which I’ll occasionally use to run a game that’s Mac bound to get an early preview, or for some other purpose. I use Boot Camp as infrequently as possible, however.

I find maintaining two operating systems to be a wretched pain in my backside. I end up spending a stupid amount of time just getting Windows to run effectively: making sure anti-virus and anti-malware profiles are up to date, applying the latest security patches from Microsoft, and making sure the latest game patches or updates are installed. Not to mention the expense I’ve incurred of buying a second operating system to run on the Mac, and the utter waste of hard disk space—a particularly loathsome choice if you have a system that’s relatively limited in its amount of internal expansion, like a MacBook or MacBook Pro.

From where I sit, announcing that you use Boot Camp to play games on your Mac is a bit like telling me that eating from the dumpster in the alley behind that four-star restaurant is a much better deal than being a paying customer.

That may be true, but where’s your dignity?

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