I started writing about video games on a small magazine called Planet Playstation in 1998 and have written for, edited and launched many more games magazines since then, from Xbox mags to the Official PlayStation Magazine. I've played every retro console, and still own most, somewhere in my garage there's a box of Atari, Sega, Commodore and Nintendo goodies gathering dust.
Here's the thing, in over 20 years of professionally writing about and covering video games Apple has been an outsider; successful in every area of computing, changing how we interact with tech and media, Apple has never managed to get a foothold in games. The excellent Apple Arcade store is worthy but it's more a home to the best indie games rather than an Apple equivalent Steam. The closest I've come to gaming on Apple was playing Football Manager on my Mac Mini back in 2006. Traditionally, Apple has just not be relevant.
But this year Apple has sharp-elbowed its way into gaming, and its initial pitch to modern players is actually an interesting one. Not only will the new M3 chips - that can handle ray tracing and intense graphics performance - become a mainstay of Apple's products, we'll also see mobile gaming become a major part of Apple's push, along with VR. It feels like there's a plan at work.
Apple finally taking gaming seriously could also usher in a new 'third way' for gamers, one that sits between the ease of closed console gaming with the power and complexity of PC gaming (and without the mistakes of Google). Let's also not forget Apple's design aesthetic. Gamers are older now, according to research the average age globally is around 34 years old, with another 34% of gamers aged older. For many the intense RGB gaming look is a put-off, while Apple's elegant and streamlined style is a draw.
Apple is also a closed system like a PlayStation, so you know what you're getting, you know it works and you know you're not going to need to hit Reddit to find out why your gamepad is randomly drifting. In a word, Apple as a gaming platform offers the best of the two most popular worlds; plug-and-play console gaming with the power and versatility of PC gaming. Whether Apple can squeeze in, or be squeezed out, is the big question.
I feel like Apple's engagement with VR with the forthcoming Apple Vision Pro has had a wider impact internally than you'd think. To succeed a VR headset needs software, and while Vision Pro's price and specs suggest its aimed at pros and creators over gamers, I've heard first-hand of how Apple is looking for game adaptations and exclusives for its new VR headset. Gaming is pivotal to a successful launch, and Apple already has over 100 at launch, including a VR version of NBA 2K23 Arcade Edition.
There are also rumours of a Vision Pro Lite that could offer a cheaper version of the VR headset with gaming in mind, aimed directly at picking up some of the huge Meta Quest 3 market. This headset is likely to make cuts to its lens quality, use the iPhone 15 Pro chip, the Apple A17 Pro, and drop features like the comically controversial EyeSight mode, in order to lower the price.
How you'll use and play on Vision Pro is where Apple can find success; you can use the headset with MacBooks, iPhones and iPad meaning Apple is beginning to join up its mix of hardware so gamers can play the same game on each device in a different way. As I say, it feels like there's an actual plan here.
Historically porting games to Apple hardware has been costly and time consuming, which is why for years Football Manager was all I had. But when Apple revealed its new Game Porting Toolkit this summer at WWDC 2023 it solved the biggest cost to entry for most developers overnight, and because studios can use this to bring their games to all Apple hardware, from Macs to iPhones and iPad to Vision Pro, it's made Apple an eye-catching family of platforms to create for.
Already, Kojima Productions jumped aboard and committed to bringing Death Stranding: Directors Cut to macOS, and has demoed the new Game Mode feature that boosts performance and reduces lag over Bluetooth; great for playing using a PlayStation 5 DualSense Controller or a complex pro PC gaming controller.
The launch of Apple's M3 chip series has also helped change the gaming landscape. Already we're seeing more games that would have struggled on older MacBooks performing beautifully on M3 Ultra MacBooks; this year's best game, Baldur's Gate 3, runs at a smooth 100 fps with strong and vivid colours. If a game this graphically intensive can run on an M3 MacBook, I'm looking at my PS5 and wondering… maybe it's time for something new.
Resident Evil Village The eighth Resi game is an intense horror FPS designed for PS5.
Resident Evil 4 Remake A remake of the PS2 / GameCube classic, released on consoles in January.
Death Stranding Director's Cut The extended version of the Metal Gear Solid creator's award-winning walking sim.
Assassin's Creed Mirage The latest game in this Ubisoft series just released, and is heading to iPhone.
The Division: Resurgence A free-to-play version of the hit Tom Clancy game, in open beta on iPhone.
Then we have the spectre of mobile gaming. Whether it's played on the rumoured Nintendo Switch 2, using PC handhelds like the Steam Deck OLED or gaming on smartphones, one of the biggest trends of 2024 will be the dominance of mobile gaming, so it's little wonder Apple has been pushing iPhone 15 as a gaming platform.
With Triple-A games previously only on high-end PCs, PS5 and Xbox Series X, you can now play Resident Evil Village and soon Resident Evil 4 (remake) on your iPhone. Just as impressively, accessories such as Backbone One turn your iPhone into a mobile console whether streaming or playing natively (I already steam Xbox Series X games to my iPad).
So here I am, looking at Apple's gaming offer as a whole, and it's impressive. Yes, we've been here before and I vividly remember the push to make Apple Arcade a thing when streaming games was a new idea, but that fell away fast. The difference now is Apple has a set of processors in the M3 series that have been designed for gaming as much as creative tasks, it's on the cusp of next year's biggest trends in how we'll play games and has a family of devices developers can create for. Apple gaming may finally be about more than Football Manager and cult indies.