Apple ARM Macs: How Games will WIN most from this transition

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Apple held their WWDC conference this week, unveiling the next versions of iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

Features such as widgets in iOS 14, better Apple Pencil improvements for iPad and a refreshed design for macOS are just some of the features announced this week.

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But the main announcement was that the Mac line is now going to move from Intel chips to their own ‘Apple Silicon’, essentially the same chips that have been in iOS devices for years.

There’s a lot to unpack from this, but we wanted to touch on the ‘gaming’ side of this, and how it could help the Mac’s library of games for the next decade.

ARMing up the War Chest

The Mac has now seen three transitions during its time; from Motorola 68K to PowerPC, to Intel, and now Apple Silicon. The chips are based on the ARM architecture, something that Apple have been leading with ever since the A4 chip in the iPhone 4 ten years ago.

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Ever since, we have seen incredible speed advancements, leading up to the 2018 iPad Pro where it was super-seeding current Macbooks at that time.

Apple has stated that the first Mac with Apple ARM will be appearing by the end of the year, while the whole transition will take two years for the Mac line to entirely move to Apple ARM.

It was notable that during their presentation on Monday discussing the ARM move, they were showcasing a demo of ‘Shadow of the Tomb Raider’, running entirely in their emulator, Rosetta 2. 

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Gaming with a stronger ARM

Developers essentially have four months to see if they can make their apps and games ‘Universal’, which means to run natively on Intel and Apple ARM.

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Rosetta 2 can help with this if they need more time, which was proven with the ‘Tomb Raider’ demo, but there was also another aspect that will help; iOS.

As iOS and Mac will soon run on the same CPU architecture, Apple also announced that apps that are available on iPhone and iPad will be able to run on an Apple ARM Mac. This could open up the Mac to so many games which haven’t been released on its platform before. Especially with games that have controller support, you could play a game on an iPhone and continue your progress on a Macbook.

Apple Arcade launched last year, and even though there’s a fair few games available on the service, there’s not been much to shout about in recent months. Only this week it was confirmed that ‘Beneath a Steel Sky’ would be coming to the service, but major releases are few and far between.

Keyboard Support for Games on iPadOS 14 could be a game-changer.

It seems that when these new software updates are released to the public in the fall, we will see much more attention given to the service, and what games could be coming, both to Apple Arcade and macOS on Apple Silicon.

Coupled with the announcement that native keyboard support is coming to games on iPadOS, there’s huge potential to see first-person-shooters such as DOOM, BioShock, and even CounterStrike come to both platforms, and even Apple Arcade.

There’s next to no chance of Steam or Origin natively coming to Apple Silicon Macs, as that could fan the flame of Half Life 2 and Star Wars: Squadrons being ARM-compatible with iPad. But we are heading into an age where these processors will be overtaking Intel and AMD in most tasks, and we should be preparing ourselves to expect upcoming games to be universally playable on all Apple platforms.

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Hopefully developers will see Apple Silicon as a platform that they will need to develop games for, as it can benefit consumers on Apple products greatly, as the thoughts of playing DOOM Eternal, Hitman, and Resident Evil 2 on an iPad is a very tantalizing thought.