Will Steam kick off a Mac game explosion?

"I think it's a great opportunity to grow a fairly lucrative area of the market given there are precious few outlets for Mac games in general," says Martyn Brown, Joint CEO of Team17 Software and the man behind the mighty Worms franchise. "Given that Apple strangely never supported their laptops/iMacs through a readymade solution, such as App Store, means that I think that this cannot fail to be successful.

Mac gamers can now download half life 2 via steam

Half Life 2: Mac gamers can now download great games via Steam

"Generally speaking there's not a huge overhead in producing Mac editions of PC titles and now that there's a viable platform for digital publishing I'd expect support for it to blossom quickly. Team17 certainly has plans to support Mac platforms through Steam and we look forward to announcing further details on that later in the year."

What of other independent iPhone developers, those who have flocked to make games for Apple's new (and potentially highly lucrative) iPhone platform in the last year or two?

"It's an odd one, but incredibly interesting - the reams of independent iPhone devs now have a serious delivery platform to mitigate a move into OSX game development, but have to really step up to a much more professional development environment to make it viable," argues Peppermint P's Tony Coles, a specialist PR for games developers.

"Though they'll have a Mac already, so it's perhaps not that steep a curve - and traditional PC developers need to migrate to the Apple APIs, though with Intel chips on both formats, porting should be straightforward," adds Coles.

"With PC games so reliant on the DirectX APIs for graphics, sound and human interfacing, it'll be interesting to see if PC devs take to the Mac equivalents (like Apple's implementation of OpenGL) with the same gusto but it seems that much of the usual crowd of PC middleware is available for OSX, so it could be relatively painless, should Steam for Mac prove popular enough to warrant the time investment."

A sea-change for Mac gaming?

MacFormat writer James King certainly seems to think the recent launch of Valve's Steam marks a sea-change for gaming on Macs.

King notes, in the latest issue of MacFormat, that: "For years gaming on the Mac was possible, but undesirable; the userbase relative to PC was low, almost no-one had a graphics card that was designed for gaming, and because of compatibility issues (Endian differences, DirectX incompatibility, and so on) games had to be made from scratch rather than ported."

No more.

Where gaming has previously been a side-line interest for Apple, it seems that the explosion of interest in games on the iPhone has led to a new focus on desktop and laptop gaming on Macs.

"Four years on, those 'new consoles' are starting to look weary in comparison to what a specced-up Mac or PC can handle, and, suddenly the Mac looks attractive," adds King.

"Moreover, the iPhone plays games better than the PSP or DS, and its micropayments system has revolutionised gaming, being arguably the only platform that's matching pace with the on-going social gaming revolution. Instead of £40 games that require systems worth hundreds of pounds, now you can get quality games for pennies."

PC developers that are now willing to commit to the Mac platform (on record) are still few and far between, but off-record chats with developers shows that there is a willingness to consider Mac as a gaming platform now.

"The additional cost to developers to develop for Mac is minimal compared to the initial cost of development," notes the MacFormat man, who adds, "it's already becoming apparent that the cross-platform differences and tribalism are being rapidly eroded.

"So it's likely we'll see the Mac taking its place alongside the other platforms, receiving simultaneous releases. However, the majority of gaming, on any platform, is going to be online and free."

Adam Hartley