Affiliate Disclosure
If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Read our ethics policy.

Apple says emulation in macOS can show devs how Windows games could run

Apple's push to improve gaming on Mac may involve some form of emulation, with its Game Porting Toolkit including a way for developers to try out existing Windows games within macOS.

Apple's announcements during WWDC for macOS and Mac include quite a few quality-of-life features aimed at gamers. However, the inclusion of a Game Mode in macOS Sonoma and improved Bluetooth sampling rates for controllers may pale compared to what it included in the Game Porting Toolkit.

The Game Porting Toolkit is a set of tools that developers can use to bring their Windows or console games over to macOS, including a more straightforward conversion process and a quicker evaluation of what it could look like.

While the toolkit includes things like the Metal Shader Converter and debugging tools for Metal, Andrew Tsai posted to YouTube that there was some emulation included in the kit. As mentioned in the Platforms State of the Union, Apple allows developers to run existing Windows games in a "provided emulation environment."

During the session "Bring your game to Mac, Part 1: Make a game plan," Apple directly mentions how the emulation interface lists the "Instruction and Direct3D translation type" among other key details.

A screenshot showing the Direct3D translation type is shown to developers when emulating for a game.

The intention of the environment is to allow developers to see the "game's potential performance immediately, eliminating months of upfront work," according to Apple. It is to help developers work out whether it's worth porting the Windows game, and to realize the amount of work required to accomplish that task.

Tsai later determined after checking the source code that the tool is really a modification of Wine, based on CrossOver 21.1.1.

One unusual element is that the game shown in one demonstration video seems to be running under Rosetta 2, and is able to handle games using DirectX 12.

Before WWDC, CrossOver developers CodeWeavers blogged that while CrossOver was to get formal DirectX 12 support from CrossOver 23, dealing with DirectX 12 itself was difficult. The team wasn't able to find a "single magic key that unlocked DirectX 12 support on macOS," and believed that enabling such support would have to be done on a per-title basis.

It is unclear if Apple has created a solution that actually can run DirectX 12 without issues, but if it does, there may be more utility beyond being a developer testing tool. If Apple wished, and if the emulation or translation layer worked sufficiently enough, there would be the potential to make it a publicly-accessible feature.

Of course, that's unlikely to occur, as Apple would stand to benefit more from games being ported to work on macOS than to enable Windows games to run directly.