The major upside to all this talk about Apple switching to Intel chips is that finally you poor Mac bastards will be able to enjoy video games with the rest of us. “But Matt, there’s plenty of great games for the Mac, like Halo and… umm… Halo”. Riiight. And the fact that something like Battlefield 1942 was just published for the Mac this past spring, a mere 5 years after the PC version, means that Mac has a thriving game community too right?
Seriously though, What Jobs did was brilliant in that respect. By having x86 compiled software (for the better part of 4 years) and the development kits to make the executables universal with litteraly 1 check box, you’ve now made a stable, fast, PC-based gaming platform availble to Mac users.
Game development time for the different versions will shift to the development of 1 version with universal application. As it is, PC, XBox and PS2 versions of video games are often written at the same time, because the platforms are similar and not much has to be converted/changed. Those seperate versions are often released weeks/months from each other due to final tweaking, but that seems acceptable to me. Now, you’re practically making the Mac version at the same time you’re making the PC version. Maybe a few tweaks here and there for things like graphics card compatabilites, but now we’re talking weeks and months rather than 5 years. Add to that the fact that Xbox 360 and PS3 games will be even more PC in design, and you’ve got a sweet out look for cross platform, universal game releases.
I’m not nieve enough to think that a Mac version of future PC games won’t take a bit of work. Look at the Linux vs Windows gaming situation. Just because something is x86 doesn’t mean it’s going to magically work. I do think however that if this is addressed in the development phase rather than the “porting” stage, this can save a lot of time and grief. If game designers are already making multiple versions of their games based on console and PC hardware, similar PC hardware shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
Now, what that will do to game design is another matter. Creativity will be completely hosed. Game will be more “generic” to be available to the widest spectrum of hardware, software and user bases. But that’s a whole other argument that I don’t have the time or energy to get into at the moment. All I can say is that I hope developers keep pushing their designs into new and exciting games hile making them available to a broad audience. I hope all this good hardware doesn’t go to waste.