Will Steam kick off a Mac game explosion?

Valve's mighty Steam launches for the Apple Mac this month
Valve's mighty Steam launches for the Apple Mac this month

Valve's superb Steam service finally launched for the Apple Mac this week, with the sublime Portal being the first title available for Mac gamers to try out for free.

Most importantly, Valve also plans to introduce its Steamworks suite of publishing and development tools to games developers, free of charge.

The developer is also now set to release its forthcoming games simultaneously on PC and Mac, (with Portal 2 being the next major release on the schedule). Plus, it promises that the service will 'just work' – with no need for the excessive tinkering, updating and graphics-card one-upmanship that so often plagues the PC gaming experience.

"The first collection of Mac titles will demonstrate 'Steam Play,' which allows customers to purchase a game once and play it on all Steam supported platforms," Valve's announcement read, whetting the appetites of Mac gamers worldwide.

Mac gaming to blossom?

Gamers and developers alike have been pondering the implications of Valve's announcement and what it might mean for the future of gaming on Apple laptops and desktops. Is this going to kick off a new, slightly-belated 'renaissance' in the Mac gaming scene? Or are PC gamers going to continue to crow about their cutting-edge gaming PCs when their Mac-owning mates mention Steam?

Graham Smith, Deputy Editor on PC Gamer certainly thinks that Mac gaming is going to be given a significant (and much-needed) shot in the arm by Valve's recent announcement, telling TechRadar: "I'm sure this announcement will boost the gaming scene on the Mac, purely because it means that Mac gamers can buy loads of fantastic games."

"Having Steam available on their desktops just means that they are going to be made far more aware of what is available," adds Smith, reminding us that if you go into a high street games store the Mac games section is either non-existent or (at best) pretty hard to find! Being able to download great games from Steam fixes this problem in one go.

TechRadar spoke with a few leading games developers, industry analysts and Mac gaming experts to find out more.

Nick Parker, games industry analyst from Parker Consulting feels that recent developments in Apple gaming, including Valve's launch of Steam for Mac, will mean that, "the entire games industry eco-system will be looking to support all Apple platforms and that any games delivery system made available to Mac users will be tapping a rich vein of interested, potentially more hardcore gamers with deeper pockets."

As for the developers point-of-view, Marc DeForest, CEO of S2 Games - developer of Heroes of Newerth – is also confident that gaming on Mac is becoming a more significant force to be reckoned with.

"While PC has always been the dominant platform, Apple/Mac is quickly gaining ground as a viable platform for hardcore gamers," DeForest told TechRadar. "We've developed all three of our games for MAC, PC and LINUX and we've seen a huge increase in MAC client downloads, especially with our latest game, Heroes of Newerth. I think the trend will continue and we'll see more and more hardcore 'PC' games available for MAC in the very near future."

Adam Hartley