macOS Sonoma is here and with it brings a new feature Apple calls Game Mode. When activated, Game Mode kicks in automatically when a game is launched to give top CPU and GPU priority to maximize performance. It also improves connectivity with wireless devices, so items such as controllers and AirPods have less latency.
Game Mode is all part of Apple’s efforts to make the Mac more appealing to both developers and users as a gaming device. As a user, here’s what you need to know about Game Mode and how to use it in macOS Sonoma. Also, check out Apple’s support document about Game Mode on the Mac.
What is Game Mode?
If there’s one thing that serious gamers have in common, it’s a never-ending desire for hardware that can handle the intense graphics used in modern games. PC gamers are constantly looking at CPU performance and nitpicking over GPU speed. Mac users have long not been able to do much to tweak hardware performance, so serious gamers scoff at the Mac as a gaming platform.
The Mac’s switch to Apple silicon has unlocked performance that couldn’t be reached with Intel chips and modern games run much better. Users still can’t do anything to customize the hardware, like install a faster GPU, so Apple developed Game Mode to address this. It boosts game performance so video framerates are higher and games play smoother at more detailed graphics settings. Also, latency with wireless gaming and audio devices is reduced.
How does Game Mode boost performance?
When Game Mode is active, the game gets the highest priority with the CPU and GPU. Any apps running in the background get pushed back in priority. Also, the Bluetooth sampling rate is doubled so there’s better response between a Bluetooth controller and Bluetooth audio devices.
To get an idea of how this prioritization works, I ran Geekbench 6 on an M1 Pro MacBook Pro with Resident Evil: Village running with Game Mode. The game wasn’t affected at all when Geekbench was doing its thing in the background; the game ran smoothly and I didn’t notice any hiccups because of Geekbench running.
In case you’re wondering, the laptop’s Geekbench 6 score with no game running was 2411 (single CPU), 12499 (multi CPU), and 67569 (Compute Metal). With Resident Evil running with Game Mode, the Geekbench scores were drastically lower: 1661, 8569, and 36846, respectively. It’s clear that Game Mode pushed Geekebench to a lower processing priority.
How do you turn on Game Mode?
Game Mode automatically turns on when you launch a game. A notification appears to let you know it’s on. A game controller icon appears in the menu bar, and when it’s clicked, it tells you if it’s on or not.
A game must be in full-screen mode for Game Mode to run. Game Mode automatically pauses if you decide to play the game in a window.
Can Game Mode be turned off and back on?
Yes. Click the game controller icon in the menu bar and there’s a option to turn it off. You can also turn it back on here.
If you turn off Game Mode and quit the game, Game Mode will not activate when you open the game again. You’ll need to manually turn it on.
Does Game Mode have any settings?
It does not. You simply turn it on or off. All performance adjustments are done in the game settings.
What games work with Game Mode?
Apple says that “Game Mode works with any game, including all of the recent and upcoming Mac games.” When Sonoma was in beta, I found one game where Game Mode was not available: Civilization VI. In later betas, Game Mode worked with Civ VI.
During its macOS Sonoma introduction, Apple mentioned several new games coming to the Mac, including Death Stranding Director’s Cut, Dragonheir: Silent Gods, Humankind, and World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. These new games should work with Game Mode.
iPhone and iPad games that can run on the Mac can also use Game Mode.
Cool, more top titles, but a lot of them are old…
Yeah, that’s life in Mac gaming. If a developer is doing a Mac version, it’s not a priority. Not enough units are sold to be an incentive to developers.