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Apple is stealing a trick from the Steam Deck for macOS gaming

Apple appears to be ready to make it possible for gamers to use their MacBooks for both work and play.
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Published onJune 7, 2023

Apple Mac Mini M2 2023 vs MacBook Air M2 2
TL;DR
  • Apple is starting to take gaming seriously with the new Game Porting Toolkit for macOS.
  • Similar to Proton on the Steam Deck, this feature allows you to play non-native games in an emulated environment on the fly.
  • People are already using it to game, but it will be a while before this becomes a “set it and forget it” tool.

Out of the box, the Steam Deck runs on a special version of Linux. If you hadn’t used one, you’d assume that many games designed exclusively for Windows wouldn’t work with it. However, through the magic of services like Proton and Wine, the Steam Deck can “translate” Windows games on the fly. This allows you to fire up a game and play it without any configuration or prep, and nine times out of ten, everything will work great. Sure, some games won’t work correctly, but they will be the exception rather than the norm, thanks to all the work Valve has done to make the Steam Deck simple and easy to use (and incredibly successful).

Now, Apple is trying to do something similar with macOS (via The Verge). The company has created a tool called Game Porting Toolkit. It does basically the same thing the Steam Deck does: it allows you to play a game not designed for macOS on a macOS-based system. Using the power of Apple’s M1 and M2 silicon, macOS uses a combination of emulation and code translation to instantly convert things like Direct3D and APIs related to the keyboard, mouse, controller input, audio playback, etc., to something a Mac understands.

So far, the results are promising. In many cases, even recently launched game titles work on macOS without any modifications. Reddit users have already got Cyberpunk 2077, Diablo IV, and Hogwarts Legacy running on Macs.

To be clear, these games work on a Mac, but that doesn’t mean they work well. There will still be many issues, and things won’t be as smooth as on a Windows machine. However, as a proof-of-concept, the results are incredibly promising.

Apple gaming: New toolkit for devs, but anyone can use it

Keep in mind that the Apple Game Porting Toolkit isn’t designed for gamers — it’s designed for game developers. The point is for devs to load a game into the toolkit and see how much work they would need to do to actually port it to macOS. We’ve already seen major studios do this, such as with Resident Evil Village and the upcoming macOS port of Death Stranding: Director’s Cut.

That all being said, nothing is stopping gamers from tossing any game they like into the toolkit and seeing what happens. As long as you don’t mind some problems here and there, you could play your entire library on a MacBook or macOS desktop using this toolkit.

Also, keep in mind that this toolkit is brand new. It will get better over time. Who knows: Apple could make this a priority, and we could all be buying Macs specifically for gaming just like we’re buying Steam Decks. Can you imagine having the power to game and the insane battery life of an M2 MacBook? That would change the face of the entire gaming industry as it stands right now.