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Interview: "no evidence" Apple understands gaming


On the eve of releasing his latest game, Valve Software co-founder Gabe Newell has revealed his team's repeated frustrations in convincing Apple that gaming is equally as important to consumers as editing home movies.

Gaming news site Kikizo learned of the Mac maker's apparent sluggishness in an interview in which Newell acknowledged that Valve had approached Apple to encourage game-friendly development but rarely achieved any results. In spite of enjoying initial cooperation from Apple, the team behind Half-Life 2 and other titles encountered what it said was only a half-hearted attempt to address game developer requests.

"We have this pattern with Apple, where we meet with them, people there go 'wow, gaming is incredibly important, we should do something with gaming,'" Newell said. "And then we'll say, 'OK, here are three things you could do to make that better,' and then they say OK, and then we never see them again. And then a year later, a new group of people show up, who apparently have no idea that the last group of people were there, and never follow through on anything. So, they seem to think that they want to do gaming, but there's never any follow through on any of the things they say they're going to do."

The pattern has been a staple of Apple's approach for several years, the Valve chief said.

Apple has frequently had a problematic relationship with game developers, which have often either refused to write Mac versions or else have converted existing Windows versions, some of which take months to reach the Mac platform. While a small group of major developers such as Blizzard and id Software continue to create native Mac software, others have been lured away by promises of a larger user base and easier development with either game consoles or Windows PCs.

Many veteran Mac users will often cite the example of game developer Bungie, which had developed many Mac-only or Mac-first games during the 1990s. Apple chief Steve Jobs famously touted the software house as an example of the Mac's gaming prowess during his Macworld New York 1999 keynote speech, showing an early version of Halo — only to watch Microsoft purchase Bungie a year later and limit the Mac version of Halo to a third-party port, which arrived in late 2003.

And while Apple's switch to Intel processors has streamlined development and encouraged EA to return to the Mac, there was "no evidence" to suggest that even the simplest plans for game development registered in the Cupertino firm's mindset, according to Newell. While Apple has primarily focused its home user efforts on the iLife creative suite, the Valve frontman argued that the company should devote much more attention to gamers if it hoped to attract more Windows converts.

Games are "one of the biggest things holding them back in the consumer space," he said. "If you look at a Macintosh right now, it does a lot of things really well compared to a Vista PC, but there are no games. Why, I don't know. If I were a Macintosh product manager, it would be pretty high on my list."