Mac games get a shot in the arm from iOS

With the advent of the Mac App Store, games which started their lives on iOS have been trickling on to the Mac. Ease of porting and a simple, Apple-managed distribution system built in to operating system make it a surefire way to attract new gamers.

Games have never been the Mac's strong suit. The reasons for this are multitudinous and too lengthy to get into for the purpose of this article, but suffice it to say that it is so. However, there's been an interesting shift since January of this year - with the advent of the Mac App Store, games which started their lives on iOS have been trickling on to the Mac, too.

A casual check of the Mac App Store reveals that popular iOS titles have been converted to Mac OS X, including the ubiquitous Angry Birds - every bit as popular, it seems, in the Mac as it is on the iPhone, Android and every other platform it touches. Gameloft's equally ubiquitous Asphalt 6: Adrenaline is there also. There are other examples, as well.

The bulk of the games inventory on the Mac App Store comprises titles that were originally developed for the Mac or converted to the Mac and released before the Mac App Store debuted, but the backflow of titles from iOS to Mac OS X is unmistakable.

What's causing it?

A straw poll of developers indicate that the ease of converting apps from iOS to Mac OS X is one strong motivator. Because iOS and Mac OS X share common underpinnings, there isn't a radical amount of reengineering to rework titles for the Mac which originally designed to work on iPhones, iPod touches and iPads.

Although the tools have steadily improved over the past few years, that equation hasn't changed radically since the day that Apple first offered an API for iPhone app development - that's one reason why many early iOS developers were Mac developers.

Since then, however, the iOS ecosystem has filled out with tens of thousands of developers who had no previous experience creating software for Apple platforms, including some whose products are now in the Mac App Store.

Many developers - especially small independent ones with limited resources and personnel - don't want to go through the logistical hassle of marketing and publishing a game for the Mac (or going through the permutations of finding a publisher). So the Mac App Store gives them easy access to a growing legion of Mac users who want software for their new computers.

The Mac App Store is now standard issue, built right in to the Mac operating system with the release of Mac OS X 10.6.6 - a new icon on the Mac OS X Dock. And it'll be front and center with Mac OS X "Lion's" release later this year.

The downside, at least for the "hardcore" crowd, is that the games are, by and large, casual titles - not the sort of game that really sets the traditional gaming crowd's hearts aflutter. They're priced accordingly, with some as little as 99 cents (or free).

The Mac platform hasn't been a huge hit with the hardcore crowd for years, so chasing after hardcore gamers on the Mac is throwing good money after bad anyway. Besides, the hardcore PC gaming market has declined steadily as piracy and spiraling budgets have made more risk-averse publishers exit the PC or sidelined it in favor of consoles.

What's more, for each one of those hardcore types, there's a veritable legion of people who don't self-identify as gamers, but still want to play games. New Mac buyers. Professionals with MacBooks and MacBook Pros. Moms and dads. Grandparents. Students.

The Mac App Store has an added benefit for new Mac users - it's an Apple-sanctioned way to get software using the credentials they've already created for buying software and music through iTunes and the App Store. It isn't a third-party Web site using a payment system they've never heard of before. The risk to the buyer is low.

Ultimately, the Mac App Store isn't going to radically rejuvenate Mac gaming create a hardcore gaming market for the Mac out of whole cloth, but it does give iOS game developers and Mac OS X game developers alike an opportunity to reach a new, receptive audience - exactly the sort of empire-building success that the original iOS App Store contributed to. Just on a very different, much smaller scale.