Mac Game Developers Approaching Boot Camp With Mixed Attitudes

| Games

Mac game publishers contacted by The Mac Observer are approaching Boot Camp with mixed attitudes. Reaction so far ranges from a wait and see attitude to positions that are very positive.

To illustrate this, Glenda Adams, director of development for Aspyr Media, told TMO that "time will tell" what kind of impact Boot Camp has on Mac gaming, while Peter Tamte, who runs MacSoft parent company Destineer, referred to it as "one of the best things Apple has ever done for Mac gamers. It gives Mac gamers access to a huge library of Windows games, plus the library of Mac games."

Ian Lynch Smith, president of Freeverse Software, had a negative spin on the situation, quipping: "As usual, game makers are on the bleeding edge of the latest technology -- this time the emphasis is on the bleeding." However, he added: "Itis not affecting our plans yet. Weire just keeping a close eye on things." Feral Interactive representatives contacted by TMO said they needed a couple days "to think through the implications" before offering their thoughts on the matter.

While original Mac game development isnit expected to be affected by the release of Boot Camp, which will find a home (possibly under a different name) in Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard," thereis concern that sales of ported Mac games will dry up as users start installing Windows and running games in that OS.

Not only do many ported Mac games see their release months after their Windows counterparts, but sometimes they lack features not found in the original versions, such as support for GameSpy.

Factors

Last year, GameSpy greatly increased its licensing fees for Mac game developers, arguing that it could no longer sell them for the cheaper rates it had been charging. That situation put pressure on the cost of porting games to the Mac, forcing developers to drop that functionality. That left players of such games as Star Wars Battlefront to use direct IP or the Mac-only service GameRanger if they wanted to play online against others.

Some middleware, such as the Havok physics engine, has also proven costly to license, forcing developers to drop their pursuit of games that rely on it. Ms. Adams said, "Whether or not Boot Camp will impact having Mac-specific SDKs [software development kits] for things like GameSpy is something weill only know with time."

Going forward

Mr. Tamte, whose company over a year ago released the game Close Combat: First to Fight on Mac, Windows, and Xbox nearly simultaneously, and kept GameSpy in the Mac version, noted: "MacSoft/Destineer plans to release Macintosh versions of our future internally developed games simultaneously on the Mac, and we plan to release Mac conversions of specific Windows games where we believe these games are appropriate for people who may not have Windows installed on their Macs. We will be announcing the first of these within the next few weeks."

Aspyr recently shipped Quake 4, and has Call of Duty 2 and Civilization IV on tap for the next couple months. All three are Universal Binaries and are games that have been available for Windows since last year. Ms. Adams said her company plans "to keep an eye on the sales, to gauge how the market is reacting."

Beyond that, she said, "if a large number of Mac gamers just buy PC games and dual boot, obviously there wonit be any reason to bring newer games to OS X. But hopefully the majority of Mac owners will still support native Mac games, and if Apple can increase their market share, it will actually lead to more games being sold."

She added: "My biggest fear is it gives a lot of PC-centric developers a good iouti to killing Mac versions of their products. And decreasing the total number of native OS X apps isnit good for anyone."

If that happens, she agreed, those who have switched to the Mac may wonder why they bothered if theyire using Windows most of the time. "At what point does a switcher switch back if they realize they are in Windows 60% or 70% of the time?" she asked. "I guess Apple is really betting the OS X user experience will capture people. I think it is that much better than Windows, but the wildcard Apple is overlooking is third party applications. If those die, it doesnit matter how great the OS is."

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