Why the Microsoft/Activision deal is a huge win for Mac gamers


Why the Microsoft/Activision deal is a huge win for Mac gamers
Microsoft promised to allow rival cloud-gaming services access to Activision Blizzard games.
Image: Cult of Mac

Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard will be best thing to happen to Mac gaming in decades. The selection of titles available for Mac (and iPad) will shoot up dramatically because Microsoft has committed to allowing its popular games available on rival cloud gaming services.

Mac gaming has limped along since the 1990s. This deal will be a huge turnaround — if it makes it over all the regulatory hurdles.

The sad state of Mac gaming

Mac sales trailed behind Windows starting in the early years of the personal computer, but game developers still developed for both. However, when Apple very nearly went out of business in the 1990s, devs mostly stopped making games for the platform. There just wasn’t enough return on the investment.

Mac has had a renaissance since then, but a large majority of top titles are released for Windows and consoles but not Apple. Mac gamers looking to escape the frustration either get a console or a Windows computer to play on.

But in recent years, a new option emerged: cloud gaming.

Cloud gaming to the rescue

Game developers have to go to the expense and effort of porting their creations to each different platform, whether it’s Windows, Playstation, whatever. No more — cloud gaming changes everything. Games don’t run on the player’s local computer. Servers handle the demanding task of running premier games, and they stream only the video to the player’s device.

This means that Microsoft/Activision can put a game on Xbox Cloud Gaming and it’s playable on Windows, Mac, iPad and even iPhone. Or the service could be Nvidia GeForce Now, Amazon Luna or some other.

Xbox Cloud Gaming for iPad and iPhone
Mac, iPad and iPhone users can play 100+ console-quality games with Xbox Cloud Gaming.
Photo: Microsoft

This isn’t theoretical. I’ve played and enjoyed Xbox games on my iPad, though I highly recommend a controller. The service is still in beta, but Microsoft continues to improve it. I use other cloud-gaming services, too. I’m currently playing Lego DC Super-Villians on Amazon Luna.

Cloud gaming can be awesome. It has a couple of drawbacks, though. One is that it requires a fast, low-latency internet connection during the entire gaming session.

The other drawback is a lack of top-quality titles. Availability varies by platform, and is greatly affected by streaming rights. Game developers and cloud-gaming services have to reach an agreement, and they often cannot. But the Microsoft/Activision Blizzard deal will go a long way toward removing this limitation, too.

Regulatory hurdles can bring benefits also

Everything hasn’t been smooth sailing for Microsoft’s plan to acquire Activision. Both are huge game developers, and that made government regulators on both asides of the Atlantic nervous. But the European Union signed off on the deal. The U.S. FTC tried to block it, but a federal judge overruled the decision, though it’s now in appeal. The U.K. also denied the acquisition but it seems a few tweaks to the merger will remove that difficulty.

You care about all that because, in order to get E.U. approval, Microsoft had to agree to license popular Activision Blizzard games to competing cloud gaming services. And that license is automatic, and not only for Europe — Brad Smith, Microsoft Vice Chair and President, made clear that it applies globally.

As Smith put it, allowing any cloud-gaming service to offer Microsoft and Activision titles “will empower millions of consumers worldwide to play these games on any device they choose.”

We don’t have the details on how this will work out, but I expect to be able to play Activision’s Overwatch 2 on a Mac or iPad. And maybe Deadpool, plus plenty more.

In the mean time, if you’ve missed it on the cloud-gaming revolution, take a look at Xbox Cloud Gaming now. You can have Grand Theft Auto V on your Mac tonight.


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