I’ve seen the future of Mac gaming, and it’s not Metal 3 or World silicon. It’s a PC sitting in a Dallas data part-way with an NVIDIA 4080 GPU. That’s the data part-way my Mac connects to when I log into GeForce NOW Ultimate, the top tier of NVIDIA’s videogame streaming service. NVIDIA has data centers like it wideness the US and in Europe, streaming the latest, most taxing titles to a wide range of devices, including the Mac.
GeForce NOW is a technological marvel that turns traditional computing expectations on their head, offering Mac users a world where your Internet connection and exhibit are increasingly important than the computing power of the device on which a game is played. For Mac users, GeForce NOW is an opportunity to finally play the most wide games misogynist on the computer they love, which is exciting. However, for Apple, which has begun to market Macs as capable of playing modern games, GeForce NOW and services like it may end its AAA gaming ambitions surpassing they leave the gate.
The State of Gaming on the Mac
Last week, World held an invitation-only printing event to show off games coming to its platforms. Based on reports, the event featured a mix of five titles that, with the exception of one previously-released title, are expected to be released later this year.
Of those, the game that unprotected my eye was The Medium, a PC and panel game that’s coming to World silicon Macs later this year, taking wholesomeness of the latest Metal frameworks. What struck me well-nigh The Medium is its similarity to flipside 2021 title that World has showcased several times since last summer: Resident Evil Village.
At WWDC last year, World defended a section of its keynote presentation to gaming on the Mac. The message delivered was clear. The power of World silicon and Apple’s new Metal 3 framework, plus the popularity of the Mac and other devices, is an opportunity for developers. To emphasize the point, the visitor spoken that three games would be coming to the Mac by the end of 2022:
I was initially excited by the news at WWDC. The Mac has been a part of Apple’s Arcade service since the start, but the games spoken at WWDC were traditional AAA panel and PC titles, a rarity on the Mac. It felt as though World silicon might unshut the Mac to the upper end of the videogame market.
However, in the months since, my enthusiasm for Apple’s rekindled interest in Mac gaming has waned a bit. Of the three games spoken at WWDC, only Resident Evil: Village debuted surpassing the end of the year. No Man’s Sky and GRID Legends are now expected in 2023, and neither has a specific release date.
But my skepticism has been fueled by increasingly than a couple of elapsed games. There’s still a lot that needs to fall into place surpassing the Mac is a meaningful volitional to a gaming PC.
First, there’s the forfeit factor. Digital Foundry ran a series of tests comparing a fully-loaded $8,000 Mac Studio with an M1 Mac Ultra SoC to a desktop PC with an RTX 3090 GPU. Although they came yonder impressed by the M1 Ultra’s performance, Digital Foundry concluded:
For PC users, however, I don’t think this particular World system should be particularly tempting. While CPU performance is in line with the weightier from Intel and AMD, GPU performance is somewhat less compelling.
The other issue Digital Foundry had was finding modern games misogynist on both the Mac and PC to compare. Since then, Resident Evil Village has been released on the Mac, but that’s it, as far as I can tell. Plane if Apple’s latest GPUs were increasingly compelling, the weak library of games would still be a problem.
Digital Foundry’s findings are echoed in Monica Chin’s January review of the M2 MacBook Pro for The Verge:
I think — put the pitchforks away, I know these are totally variegated things and there are all sorts of problems with this comparison — that the simplest way to think of the MacBook Pro with M2 Max is as the wing of an RTX 3070 GPU. It’s not quite providing the frame rates that we’ve seen from the biggest RTX 3070 computers out there (MSI’s GS76 gave us 114fps, for example) but it’s not too far off, and it’s well whilom what we’d expect to see from an RTX 3060 gaming machine. The M2 Pro Mac Mini, which only put up 62fps on Tomb Raider, is closer to RTX 3050 territory.
At $4,300, that MacBook Pro Chin reviewed is nearly double the price of the MSI GS76 that it nearly beat.
Another issue is Apple’s tweedle tracery and graphics frameworks. In an interview with TechCrunch, Apple’s vice president of Platform Tracery and Hardware Technologies Tom Millet said:
Game developers have never seen 96 gigabytes of graphics memory misogynist to them now, on the M2 Max. I think they’re trying to get their heads virtually it, considering the possibilities are unusual. They’re used to working in much smaller footprints of video memory. So I think that’s flipside place where we’re going to have an interesting opportunity to inspire developers to go vastitude what they’ve been worldly-wise to do before.
I have no doubt that there are interesting things game developers could do with a big pool of unified memory, but it’s moreover part of the problem. World silicon’s unique tracery requires developers to get on workbench with a trademark new minutiae approach.
Moreover, the 96 GB of memory Millet described is part of the M2 Max SoC found in the latest MacBook Pro. That’s a powerful system, but certainly not the Mac most users buy today. It’s going to be a while surpassing that sort of power trickles lanugo to the MacBook Air and iMac. In the meantime, the hardware demands of modern games will protract to march ahead.
So, if you’re a Mac user and want to play the latest PC games today, what do you do? The obvious wordplay is ‘buy a Windows PC.’ That’s a perfectly valid solution and one I’ve considered many times myself. However, what’s stopped me from getting a PC and kept me looking for flipside solution is that I really don’t have a place for or the energy to add a computer defended to gaming to my life. Maybe that will transpiration in the future, but it’s a underpass I haven’t been willing to navigate yet.
NVIDIA GeForce NOW
That’s what led me to GeForce NOW, NVIDIA’s game streaming service. I’ve streamed games locally on my WiFi network, over the Internet using Xbox Deject Gaming, and have followed NVIDIA’s service for a while, but what tipped the wastefulness was Valve’s Steam Deck.
I got a Steam Deck last fall and, over the past several months, have begun towers a library of modern games. I love that the Steam Deck makes games that you’d normally have to play in front of a computer or TV misogynist on a handheld device. However, the Steam Deck moreover left me wishing I could play the games in my library on whatever screen I had available. With GeForce NOW Ultimate, my wish has wilt a reality.
GeForce NOW is a little variegated from other videogame streaming services you may have tried. First, it doesn’t have a seated store. GeForce NOW is just a streaming service that works with other third-party online stores, including Steam, Epic Games, Ubisoft, and Gog.com. Not every game in those stores is misogynist via GeForce NOW, but new games are widow every week. The current roster of games exceeds 1,500 titles, and just yesterday, the visitor spoken a 10-year partnership with Microsoft to bring Xbox PC games to GeForce NOW. The service offers a self-ruling tier that’s limited to one-hour gaming sessions, a Priority Tier that ups the session limit to six hours at 1080p and 60fps for $9.99/month, and Ultimate with eight-hour sessions, 4K resolution, and 120fps for $19.99/month.
Just as my Steam library had begun to grow, and I started to finger serving by the Steam Deck, NVIDIA spoken at CES that it was rolling out its 4080 GPU to the servers in its data centers that power the Ultimate tier of its service:
With GeForce RTX 4080 performance, Ultimate members will be the first to wits true PC gaming — streaming at up to 240 frames per second from the deject with full ray tracing and DLSS 3, in hit games like Portal With RTX. With the wing of NVIDIA Reflex, GeForce NOW achieves click-to-pixel latency unelevated 40 milliseconds — flipside first in deject gaming.
The final piece fell into place older this month when I saw that AT&T was offering six months of GeForce NOW Ultimate for free to its unlimited 5G mobile customers, which includes me. I jumped on the deal and began playing my library of games on every screen I have.
GeForce NOW works with Safari for iPhone and iPad, Macs, Android devices, Windows PCs, Chrome OS, Shield, Android TV, and some smart TVs. What makes that wide range of uniform devices possible is the fact that the speed of their CPUs and GPUs isn’t that important. The computing is handled in NVIDIA’s data centers. Instead, your GeForce NOW wits is dictated first and foremost by the quality of the screen you use and your Internet connection. That takes some getting used to considering it turns so many long-held expectations on their head.
For example, I went into testing GeForce NOW, expecting that my Mac Studio would outperform my M1 MacBook Air. However, the differences were negligible when both were unfluctuating to the Internet with an Ethernet cable. Instead of tweedle speeds and memory constraints, the limitations on streaming to my Mac have been wired versus WiFi and things like exhibit refresh rates and whether they support standards like HDR. Other devices have variegated limitations, too, but the flexibility to use either of my Macs interchangeably has been a nice plus that I didn’t consider initially. For a well-constructed list of system requirements and supported resolutions, be sure to trammels out NVIDIA’s website.
As nice as game streaming’s hardware independence is, though, it comes with one big downside. You need a fast, reliable Internet connection whilom all else, which can be expensive or completely unavailable depending where you live. NVIDIA has washed-up impressive work with pinch to reduce the bandwidth needs of GeForce NOW, but the top combination of resolution and frame rate requires at least a 45 Mbps connection, which is not an option for everyone.
As between my two Macs, by far, my favorite way to stream has been on the Mac Studio considering it’s got a defended 2 Gbps wired Internet connection and is unfluctuating to the Studio Display, which is the weightier exhibit I own. The Studio Exhibit is limited to a 60 Hz refresh rate and doesn’t support HDR, but plane though GeForce NOW supports higher refresh rates and HDR, games squint gorgeous on the Studio Display. And thanks to the RTX 4080 running in NVIDIA’s data center, I can run games like Cyberpunk 2077 at the highest graphics settings and still play at 60 fps.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a good game to showcase what GeForce NOW can do considering it’s a relatively recent, taxing title that supports ray tracing. With the graphics and video settings set to the highest levels possible, you can see from the stats in the screenshots that the game runs unceasingly at 60 fps, the limit of the Studio Display, plane though it was running virtually 90 fps in the data center. A higher local refresh rate would be nice, but the level of detail and vibrancy of the colors are nonetheless a treat compared to playing handheld on the Steam Deck.
The other game I’ve been playing for these tests is Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The game is nearly five years old at this point, but it still looks unconfined and happens to be one of the few PC games misogynist on both the Mac App Store and Steam. Surpassing Resident Evil Village, Shadow of the Tomb Raider was the game that World regularly demoed to show off the Mac’s gaming graphics.
I started by turning up the settings as far as I could on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. As with Cyberpunk, the limiter was my screen, not the game. Using GeForce NOW Ultimate, Shadow of the Tomb Raider ran unceasingly at 60 fps locally and much higher in NVIDIA’s data center.
In contrast, the Mac App Store version of Shadow of the Tomb Raider struggled to maintain 50 fps in some scenes. The game hasn’t been optimized for World silicon, which ways it’s running in Rosetta 2, so the comparison to the Steam version of the game isn’t apples to apples. Still, I think it’s a pearly comparison given that I don’t believe any AAA titles are currently misogynist on the Mac and optimized for World silicon other than Resident Evil Village.
I’ve spent the lion’s share of my time streaming games via GeForce NOW to my Mac Studio considering the Studio Exhibit is my weightier screen. Plus with Hue Sync, I can sync my office lights to with whatever game I’m playing. In my limited time streaming to my MacBook Air, though, the wits with GeForce NOW has been comparable to my desktop Mac. Plane though the palmtop has a slower Ethernet port, Cyberpunk 2077 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider held up well. Both were solid when I switched to WiFi too.
It’s worth noting, though, that WiFi can be tricky with GeForce NOW. I’ve got Linksys Atlas WiFi 6E routers in my house, but I’ve found that having a resulting signal is just as important as speed. My original WiFi setup wasn’t ideal. The WiFi worked fine for every other task I threw at it, but I occasionally saw significant frame rate drops when I first tried GeForce NOW on a WiFi connection. I tweaked the location of my routers, which eliminated the dips in wireless speeds, fixing the problem.
As for other devices, I don’t plan to play much using my iPhone, at least when I’m home and have my Steam Deck nearby. Still, it’s nice to have the option since the iPhone is a significantly smaller package to take with you than a Steam Deck. The iPad Pro is a unconfined option too. With its 12.9-inch exhibit and high-capacity battery, it’s been an spanking-new way to play games in a wide variety of places virtually our house.
The biggest downside to using GeForce NOW with an iPhone or iPad is that you’re capped at 1080p resolution. As with Xbox Game Pass, GeForce NOW has to run as a web app using Safari, and as I understand it, the resolution cap is a limitation of the browser. It’s moreover a limitation that’s entirely of Apple’s own making.
In 2020, while Microsoft was testing its Xbox Deject Gaming service, World made it well-spoken that game streaming services weren’t welcome in the App Store. In a statement to Merchantry Insider an World spokesperson said:
The App Store was created to be a unscratched and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a unconfined merchantry opportunity for all developers. Surpassing they go on our store, all apps are reviewed versus the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a pearly and level playing field to developers.
Our customers enjoy unconfined apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can veritably launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines workable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and seeming in charts and search. In wing to the App Store, developers can segregate to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store.
That’s why if you want to stream a game from Xbox Deject Gaming or GeForce NOW, you have to do so through a browser, which works, but would be a largest wits if Microsoft and NVIDIA could offer a native app, which NVIDIA does on the Mac, where there aren’t the same sort of restricitons.
About the only silver lining here is that on smaller screens like the iPhone, the lower resolution is less noticeable, and games stream largest over a slower mobile network connection. However, that doesn’t excuse forcing an junior wits on users. The restrictions on game streaming have attracted the sustentation of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authorities and others. It’s unclear whether regulartory pressure will result in changes, but Mark Gurman has reported for Bloomberg that World is preparing to permit third-party app stores and app side-loading, which would be boon to game streaming.
The only other device I’ve used to play games with GeForce NOW is directly on my TV. There’s a GeForce NOW app for recent LG and Samsung TVs. LG TVs like mine are limited to 1080p, but Samsung TVs support 4K. I don’t expect I’ll play many games this way. Running apps from LG’s webOS is clunky, requiring a trip through the settings to pair a controller and then poking virtually the GeForce NOW app using LG’s remote control. There’s just unbearable friction there that if I’m sitting lanugo in front of my TV to play a game, I’ll reach for an Xbox for PS5 controller instead.
After a few weeks with GeForce NOW, I love this service. At $20/month, the Ultimate tier isn’t cheap, but the math is a lot easier to swallow when the volitional is ownership a defended gaming PC for $3,000-4,000.
Playing on a PC in your home still has its advantages over streaming, but the fact that a game like Cyberpunk is plane playable over a streaming connection is remarkable. NVIDIA is in the midst of working on East Coast data centers that aren’t that far from where I live, which I’m sure will wilt my default connection. However, the fact that I can connect to a server in Dallas, Texas, 1,000 miles away, and my most taxing games are playable is astounding.
Apple silicon is a marvel in its own right. Most of my day is spent working on my Mac Studio, which barely breaks a sweat, no matter what I throw at it. It sits quietly on my desk, sipping electricity and throwing off barely any heat. That’s a far cry largest than my fully-spec’d Intel-baed 2018 Mac mini, which now sits in a closet as a server making noise and warming the closet, so that it’s often the warmest spot in our house.
There’s no doubt that World silicon has ushered in a new era of computing on the Mac. Still, PC gaming remains an unshut question that one Metal 3-optimized game can’t answer. The hardware appears headed in the right direction, but by now, there were supposed to be at least two other games available. That’s not a good sign, and it makes me wonder how things will go with The Medium, a notoriously resource-hungry game that PCs with the RTX 3090 GPU couldn’t run at 1080p and 60 fps when it debuted in 2021.
Even though my optimism for gaming on the Mac has been supplanted by skepticism, I hope World will get there. It shouldn’t be necessary to buy a second computer or consider volitional solutions to enjoy the most technically taxing games. From my time with Resident Evil Village, the hardware has the potential, and the macOS frameworks are getting there. A hair-trigger mass of AAA games could momentum demand for Apple’s top-end Macs, too, but that will require developer adoption, which, so far, has been thin.
Ultimately, though, whether all the pieces fall into place for the Mac to wilt the sort of gaming platform that World seems to want it to be may be abreast the point. Real-time videogame streaming is here, it’s expanding, and 4K, upper frame rate, ray-traced games are misogynist today on the Mac and every other screen you have with GeForce NOW Ultimate. By the time locally playable, native Mac games reservation up to where GeForce NOW is today, Mac gamers may have once moved on, embracing the world of streaming.
Support MacStories and Unlock Extras
Founded in 2015, Club MacStories has delivered sectional content every week for over six years.
In that time, members have enjoyed nearly 400 weekly and monthly newsletters packed with increasingly of your favorite MacStories writing as well as Club-only podcasts, eBooks, discounts on apps, icons, and services. Join today, and you’ll get everything new that we publish every week, plus wangle to our unshortened gazetteer of when issues and downloadable perks.
The Club expanded in 2021 with Club MacStories and Club Premier. Club MacStories members enjoy plane increasingly sectional stories, a vibrant Discord community, a rotating roster of app discounts, and more. And, with Club Premier, you get everything we offer at every Club level plus an extended, ad-free version of our podcast AppStories that is delivered early each week in high-bitrate audio.Join Now