Steam for Mac – time to ditch your PC?

steam logo.pngIf you’ve got a Mac but still hold onto a PC it’s probably for one main reason – gaming. But Valve’s decision to release Steam for Macs in April will mean that eventually, those Mac users can throw away their PCs for good. If you’ve never used it, Steam is a hugely popular download and update manager through which you can download games such as Half Life, Left 4 Dead 2 and Team Fortress. Steam for Windows has had almost 1.3 million downloads on Softonic so far which gives you an idea of its awesome popularity.

And its release on Macs could spell bad news for the PC gaming industry. PCs currently dominate the gaming landscape due to a number of reasons. The main one is simply that more people own PCs than Macs – in large part because they are seen as cheaper which as I’ve argued before is largely a misguided notion anyway nowadays – therefore that’s where the money lies for games developers. Second is that Macs have traditionally been seen as more as design machines than for gaming. Thirdly, the technical makeup of Macs never lent itself well to developing games. However, there have been major changes in all of these areas.

PCs still continue to dominate the market – Windows occupying 92% and Macs only 5% according to Net Applications. However, while PCs sales have continued to grow steadily, I would argue it’s only because they are still perceived as cheaper. That situation could change very quickly however as the price of computer parts continues to rise and manufacturers hike up prices. Macs meanwhile – even though they are already seen as more expensive – continue to grow more popular. I can’t see PC sales continuing to increase when manufacturers eventually start to increase prices.

The other major shift has been Apple’s decision to use Intel processors in Macs. This masterstroke has made Macs much more suitable for gaming and rapidly blurred the divide between PCs and Macs. Now all Mac users need to do if they want to use Windows is install it with Boot Camp or run it using Parallels. As a result of this, Macs are no longer seen as tools strictly for design professionals or a bit ‘scary’ due to users having to adapt to OS X. Macs are now seen as a much better, reliable, elegant and hassle free alternative to PCs. The only area where Macs now lag behind technically when it comes to gaming is the choice of graphics cards, but most of the latest generation Macs with NVIDIA cards are more than capable of handling most games.

In view of all this therefore, developers such as Valve are waking-up to the fact that to continue ignoring the Mac platform is to miss out on an increasingly significant avenue of revenue.

The success or failure of launching Steam on the Mac will however have a huge bearing on the future of whether other games developers follow suit. The essential question here is, will the Mac version of Steam be a pale imitation of Windows or offer exactly the same service? According to Valve’s press release, the signs are optimistic:

We are treating the Mac as a tier-1 platform so all of our future games will release simultaneously on Windows, Mac, and the Xbox 360. Updates for the Mac will be available simultaneously with the Windows updates. Furthermore, Mac and Windows players will be part of the same multiplayer universe, sharing servers, lobbies, and so forth. We fully support a heterogeneous mix of servers and clients. The first Mac Steam client will be the new generation currently in beta testing on Windows.

Considering that’s not even possible on the PlayStation or Xbox , it’s a sign of just how seriously Valve are taking the Mac platform. The fact that Valve are launching their major new game Portal 2 simultaneously on Mac and Windows is also a very encouraging sign in their faith that the time has come to take Macs seriously as games machines.

And according to Macworld, more is to come from other games developers so you it may not to be too long before you can finally ditch that PC for good.

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