It looks like gaming MacBooks could be one step closer to actually being a thing, as Apple has just updated its Game Porting Toolkit, which should give games a serious performance boost.
The Game Porting Toolkit was announced at WWDC 2023 as part of the updated Metal 3 developer suite, and was touted as a fast and reliable way for game developers to port their games to macOS – the operating system that Macs and MacBooks use.
This announcement was certainly exciting, as Apple has been making hardware that should (in theory) be able to play the best PC games well, especially with the powerful new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips found in the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2023) and MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023). However, gaming on Macs has continued to be a bit of a pipe dream due to the lack of games available on the platform compared to Windows (and even Linux, thanks in part to Valve, the company behind the Steam store, and its support for the open-source operating system).
The Game Porting Toolkit, as the name suggests, aims to make it easy for developers to port their games to macOS – including tools to run Windows games in an “emulation environment”. In a similar way that Apple’s Rosetta 2 tool allowed apps built for older Intel-based Macs to run on Apple's own silicon (the M1 and M2 chips), without the need to rewrite the code, the Game Porting Toolkit should show game developers how well their games will run on Mac hardware without having to port it first.
A welcome performance boost
Running games via emulation, rather than natively, does have performance implications, but with the latest version (v0.2) of the Game Porting Toolkit, it looks like performance has been seriously improved for some games.
As Apple Insider reports, Elden Ring gets a 20% improvement when running on the M1 Max, and Cyberpunk 2077 gets a doubling of framerates on the M2 Ultra. Both of those games don’t have Mac versions – so before the launch of the Game Porting Toolkit, there was no way for Mac owners to run these games.
So, the fact that the Game Porting Toolkit allows them to run on a Mac or MacBook – and more importantly, run well – is certainly exciting. This update is free, which will hopefully encourage game developers to try it out – and the improved performance should give them a better idea of how their games will run on Apple hardware.
While the Game Porting Toolkit isn’t meant for consumers to use, any tool that makes it easier for developers to bring their games to macOS should be encouraged. Combined with the recent announcement of Game Mode for the upcoming macOS 14 Sonoma, this will hopefully mean that the best MacBooks and Macs become viable gaming devices in the future - by breaking the vicious circle of games not coming to macOS because gamers don’t buy Macs... due to games not coming to macOS.
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Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.