Steve Jobs has little use for computer games. Inconveniently, his customers are quite interested, and that’s been a problem since 1984.
I can’t source most of this, so you’ll have to assume that my memory isn’t too fuzzy, and I wouldn’t lie to you. But while plenty of Apple engineers have been happy to help out game developers here and there, Steve’s seen bigger things for his Macintosh; leaps and bounds of creativity, imagination, and the simplification of daily tasks. Not bad, but we want to shoot the undead too, and Mr. Jobs doesn’t really seem to get that.
So thanks to that, and years of management confusion at Apple, Mac gaming has never had the market share of Windows gaming. That didn’t mean no one was playing, though. The company that created Halo made its first fortune off a Mac game. The company behind Doom and Quake always found it worthwhile to publish Mac releases of their titles. But there was one game, a classic among Windows gamers, one that always stood separate. When people tested me for rabid Apple fandom, there was always one fact I’d easily admit to: you couldn’t play Half-Life on the thing.
And there’s some odd history behind that. According to rumor, Half-Life for the Mac was nearly done: in late beta-testing, at worst. Then Gabe Newell of Valve went to Apple and asked Steve Jobs to make some changes to the Mac OS so it would run his games better. (I suspect it was either DRM hooks in the OS, or more likely, licensing DirectX from Microsoft… both of which had a snowflake’s chance in Molten Core of happening.) Steve probably explained in his winning way where he figured Newell’s head was stuck, and Mac HL was immediately cancelled.
But, you know, other guys kept making money, small though they might be. And did I mention “Molten Core”? Yeah, see, that’s a place in a little game called World of Warcraft… a game with around 11 million subscribers, available in parallel for the PC and the Mac. So, maybe Mac gamers are only 1% of the PC gaming market. That meant that Blizzard was collecting subscription money from 100,000 gamers every month. Obviously, that’s the kind of money than any successfully game company can totally ignore…
Oh. Hm. Well. And, you say, Macs all run on Intel motherboards, now? Well. Perhaps we can do this without trying uselessly to twist Steve’s arm after all…
So, now we’ll have Steam on the Mac, and I can play HL and Portal without dual-booting, and not have to roll my eyes when a friend tells me about this awesome little $5 game download they found there the other day. I’m happy. Gabe will get my money. He’s happy. And it only took him over a decade to figure out how to reach into my wallet!* Well, we all just need a little time, sometimes.
*I confess, he already has some of it. I bought HL for the PlayStation 2, and Portal for Windows, playing the latter by dual-booting my Intel Mac. But Valve says that I’ll get a copy of Portal for Mac for free just because I registered the original through Steam… and suddenly, I’m even more well-disposed to the company. (I previously expressed concerns about the Steam service, and they still exist, but the company seems to be going out of their way to make the utility worth more than the hassle. That seems good business.)