Low End Mac Gaming

Bungie and the Future of Mac Gaming

Brian Rumsey - June 26, 2000

Imagine my shock: I had been in Costa Rica for two weeks getting to use the Spanish that I studied for several years, blissfully unaware of anything that was going on in the United States, much less in the Mac game industry. When I arrived home at 01.00 in the morning, my computer was booting up within a few minutes as I looked forward to reading all the exciting new games which had been announced in the last two weeks. However, I soon saw what the real news was: "Microsoft buys Bungie."

Needless to say, I was as shocked as anyone. And, like many others, I am much less than happy about the whole deal. Ranting, however, is not one of the two intentions I have in writing this article: examining the reasons behind it and taking a few guesses as to how the Mac gaming community will be affected are.

Just about the entire Macintosh community expressed shock that Bungie, a company whose devotion to the Mac gaming platform was second to none, would sell out to a company like Microsoft.

Although I do not list any Bungie games among my favorites, I am as saddened as almost anyone by this deal and its apparent consequences. As much as I look at the deal, I can not seem to see any reason for it on Bungie's part other than money. There were recent rumors that Bungie was running low on funds. If these were true, it is too bad they couldn't find anyone other than Microsoft to get them going again.

It could also be that Microsoft simply offered them too much money to refuse. I do not know the exact value of the purchase (does anyone?), so I am not really in a good position to comment on this. I can only say that Bungie's decision was not seen as a beneficial action by those in the know, based on the closing of several websites serving fans of various Bungie games.

From the Microsoft perspective, I would consider this a very good move. Foolish as I was, I laughed off the X-Box, Microsoft's forthcoming game system, believing that it would not succeed because there would be no good reason to buy it over any other console game system.

I should not have taken Microsoft so lightly.

As one of the most successful companies of the past decades, I should have known that Microsoft would think of this and find an answer. Although no official announcement has been made yet, there is a lot of speculation that Halo, Bungie's much anticipated game in progress, will now be released only for the X-Box, providing the "killer app" which will cause many people to buy the X-Box.

We Mac fans are familiar with petitions to get games released for our platform, but for once even Wintel folk are signing the petition <http://www.game-over.net/halo/>. Although no Mac version would be a great disappointment to me and many others, Halo does look good enough to bring many customers to the X-Box. I doubt that I will buy an X-Box for that reason - I have never been much of a console gamer - but I could see plenty of other people buying them. If Microsoft would repeatedly make deals like this, I think that it could start to hurt them as people become tired of their favorite companies becoming part of the machine, but I do not think that just this deal is enough to start much trouble for Microsoft.

What will this do for gaming on the Mac?

It is already a big blow to the morale of the Mac gaming community - a company that started on the Mac and remained faithful even during the darkest days, eventually becoming one of the industry leaders, selling out to a company who many Mac users consider a prime enemy and very few actually like. Even if Bungie continues to make Mac games, a question which is unanswered at this point, I do not think that they will continue to be considered a leader in the Mac game industry.

As the shock lessens, we should see a few companies jockeying to replace Bungie, which should cause some healthy competition. It is not like Bungie has closed its doors, so if it does decide to get out of the Mac market altogether, it may be done slowly instead of all at once.

This deal is a blow to the pride and spirit of the Mac gaming community, but it should not be enough to do serious damage. If Mac Halo is actually canceled, I think that Mac WarCraft III will gain even more momentum, assuming it is announced as expected. WarCraft III was shaping up to be a good rival to Halo in many ways, but now it may have the field to itself. Both of these games are war games which promise spectacular graphics, although the settings are obviously different. With its established name and size, Blizzard (the publisher of the WarCraft series, as well as others) seems to be in a particularly good position to take advantage of this situation - at the upcoming Macworld Expo they could announce a Mac version of WarCraft III as they make a public commitment to developing an even stronger Mac presence. Other companies, especially smaller ones, could also take advantage of this situation, but in my opinion Blizzard is best situated to make a move.

It has only been a few days since this deal was made, so we have not seen for sure what will happen because of it. As you sit back and hope for the best, think about your favorite low-end Mac games and email about them. Starting fairly soon, some of my articles will be in depth analyses of games, including extra attention on how to make them run best on older Macs. I have no limit on how new or old the game has to be, although in general it helps if there is still somewhere to get it (I don't want to frustrate people by getting them all excited about a game and then they can't find it anywhere) - but you will have to have some pretty good reasons to convince me that Quake 3 is a low end game.

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