Apple's relationship with games and the gaming public has, historically, been a bit of a strange one. But could the latest title to be dragged kicking and screaming onto the Mac finally signal that something's changing?
That title is of course No Man's Sky, a game that's been around in some version or another since 2016. Now it's on the Mac, almost a year after it was announced at WWDC in 2022. But we're now just days away from WWDC 2023, so what gives?
The delay is probably par for the course for Mac gaming at this point, but why is it here now, on the eve of Apple's big developer conference and one that's expected to see the debut of Apple's first AR/VR headset? Does it have anything to do with the so-called Reality Pro?
That last question is the big one - and if the answer is yes, we could be about to see a whole new Apple.
Reality Pro, a gaming or productivity headset?
The arrival of No Man's Sky on the Mac just days before Apple is expected to announce the Reality Pro headset does smell fishy, it has to be said. The game is already VR-capable and can be played on the PlayStation VR2, among others. So why not Reality Pro as well?
That raises an interesting question because it would be at odds with what we'd been told to expect from the headset. Many leaks have been at pains to share some of the things that the Reality Pro headset could be capable of, including running iPad-like productivity apps in AR and VR. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman had also suggested that fitness could be part of the equation, while interfaces for Apple's messaging and other apps were thought to be in the works.
But the idea of a gaming aspect isn't completely alien. Gurman reported earlier this year that gaming would be a focus for Apple - admitting that it was a reversal of previous plans.
"Gaming will be a central piece of the device’s appeal, too. That’s a reversal from Apple’s stance earlier in the product’s development, when it wasn’t planning to focus on that category as much," he said.
If that's the case, should we expect gaming to become a focus for Apple as a whole?
Apple and gaming, a complicated story
Apple is no stranger to games, of course. There was the Pippin way back when, but more recently Apple launched Apple Arcade. The subscription-based game service gives people access to a growing library of titles on their iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. There are no ads or in-app purchases, either.
Could Apple Arcade be a key driving force behind the Reality Pro's potential success?
If that is to be the case, it'll need some work. Apple Arcade has become a place where developers rerelease their existing games, stripping out previous monetization systems. There are of course original titles in Apple Arcade, but not as many as there should be.
This brings us back to where we began - could No Man's Sky signal a new focus for Apple? Perhaps, and while No Man's Sky in VR sounds interesting, we're more interested in what comes next. Let's hope we don't just get revamped old iPhone games.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back.