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Hands On With Boot Camp

When Apple announced that it would be switching to Intel, I knew this day would come. But what's amazing, and something I didn't think would happen, was that Apple had a hand in creating a piece of software that makes installing Windows on a Mac so easy. To boot, Apple has even given us native video drivers so that PC games run at full speed on Intel Macs. All in all Boot Camp is really impressive. How will affect you? Mac developers? Read on...

Boot Camp
First, let's talk about Boot Camp. The process is so easy almost anyone with basic computer knowledge can install Windows on their Intel Mac. I downloaded Boot Camp and ran it. The program told me I had to first update my firmware. So back to Apple's site I went and downloaded and installed the firmware update for my iMac. After a restart, I ran Boot Camp again and went through the simple process of burning a CD-ROM that contains the native drivers for Windows and partitioning the hard drive. The really neat thing about this is that you don't have to reformat your hard drive. A cool little slider lets you adjust the amount of space you want to keep for OS X and what amount you want to allocate for your Windows partition. After you have this done, Boot Camp asks you to insert a Windows XP CD and off you go to install Windows.

The entire process takes about an hour...a virtual miracle when you consider what a hack job it was just a few weeks ago to get your Intel Mac to dual boot. Once you've installed and booted into Windows, you then have to install the native drivers. Insert the CD and Apple's installer does the rest. Simplicity at its best.

Onto Gaming
Playing PC games on an Intel Mac is incredibly impressive. I was able to install and play games like Battlefield 2, Half-Life 2, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Frame rates were excellent on all three games, even at higher resolutions with anti-aliasing turned on. Bottom line: wow.

From the various reports I've seen on the Internet, almost everything that people throw at these machines run PC games just fine on Intel Macs.

I won't bother posting actual benchmarks...just know that games run great on these super fast Intel Macs.

The Consumer Impact
If you've been itching for games that haven't been available on the Mac, well, here's your chance. All you need is to pluck down $200 for Windows XP. Or not. I have a feeling that people that will be dual booting will be hard core gamers and hard core gamers are the ones most notorious for pirating. I don't think Bill Gates should expect a nice pick me up in Windows XP sales because of Boot Camp. Well, at least not from gamers...but that's another story we won't delve into right now.

For Mac gamers, this is a huge boon. Suddenly thousands of PC games are now available for you to play with. Yes, dual booting is still a bit of a hassle and there will be some who will not want to install Windows. But I predict that most hard core gamers will. It's just too easy and too attractive not to.

The Mac Developer Impact
This is the part I'm having lots and lots of problems with. In my opinion, Apple has, in a way, flipped the bird to Mac game companies that port games from PC to Mac. I'm talking about the Aspyrs, the Feral, etc, etc. My first thought is that triple AAA titles such as Call of Duty 2 and others of that type of genre and quality will simply not be ported to the Mac anymore. Why? Well, because these are the exact types of games that Mac gamers will want to dual boot into Windows to play. I'm less concerned about more casual types of games like The Sims 2 and other "niche" types of games like Imperial Glory, Fable, Heroes V, etc.

Yesterday's move by Apple has completely changed the landscape for Mac gaming. Mac gaming as we know it has changed forever. Those of you who think Mac gaming will completely die off are way, way off. Original Mac games and casual games will flourish in this type of environment. Ports will be another story. I think that initially companies like Aspyr will curtail the number of ports to a minimum. They'll need to find games that they know will appeal to the crowd that will not dual boot. Or they may simply choose to abandon the platform.

Imagine that...a company that has been so loyal, so giving, so hard working to bring the top Mac titles to the Mac completely abandoning the platform a year from now. The impact is staggering. It could happen.

That said, is there anything that could save the Aspyrs and the Ferals? I think so. Market share in the coming months and years is going to be key. If Apple intended to release Boot Camp so that it could double or even triple its market share, than it better hope it'll pay off. If Apple can increase their market share by huge amounts, than it is possible that dual booting will not affect the Mac gaming porting business. This is a big, big if, of course, and only time will tell.

Right now Aspyr and the like have absolutely no reason to cancel ports. The Intel Mac crowd is still small. The PowerPC installed base is huge and will remain so for a while. Hopefully this will give these developers enough time to plan accordingly.

The Aspyr's and the Feral's also need to realize that they MUST start offering games as digital downloads. This alone could double sales of Mac games and help offset dual booting, pirating, and the shrinking retail shelf space available for Mac games. And for God's sake, don't make digital downloads a closed system. Make them available through as many channels as possible, not just one proprietary way.

YO! IS LIKE IMG GONNA DIE?
Someone asked me this yesterday. My answer was hell no! IMG caters to all facets of Mac gamers and will do so in the future. Will we be concentrating on dual booting? Probably. But we will not forget the ports, the casual games (which are increasingly becoming popular) and original Mac games. That said, it makes sense to diversify. In the coming months and year you will be seeing us branch into other areas within and out of gaming.

I've said it once and I'll say it again...the Mac gaming market is never dull, despite what some of you might think. Yes, we've had our ups and downs, and challenges remain and will remain for a long while. So I cross my fingers and pray that Steve knows what the hell he is doing. A lot of questions remain. Will ports of applications, not just games, be in jeopardy now? Will this move really help Apple attain a much bigger market share? Lots and lots of questions. Stay tuned.

Posted on April 6, 2006 at 2:12 pm | 40 Comments



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