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EA Returns To The Mac! But Will They Stay?

A few weeks ago I learned of EA's intention to bring some of their game titles to the Mac and since then I've been wrestling with the consequences and impact of EA's "renewed" commitment to the Mac. Is this a good thing? Will it backfire? Now you're probably thinking, Tuncer, this HAS got to be a good thing, right? I mean, it's EA, the biggest game company of all showing their support for the Mac platform!

Well, I'm by no means a pessimist, but a realist through and through. I'll give you a few scenarios to play with and let you be the judge. Is EA's intention to bring Mac titles to the Mac a good one? Yes. Will they succeed? Ugg, well, that's the one I'm worried about. Is this just another "experiment" or will EA keep on releasing Mac titles well into the future.

The Good
First, let's discuss the good points. I'm absolutely thrilled about the titles that Electronic Arts announced today. Just look at them!

Command & Conquer 3, Battlefiled 2142, Need For Speed: Carbon, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Madden NFL 2008, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2008.

EA will be using TransGaming's Cider to bring these titles to the Mac. That means that they won't be ported to the Mac. Instead they'll be using Cider's portability engine which essentially allows a PC game to run on a Mac without the need for porting. TransGaming has proven that Cider works and works well with games like Heroes of Might & Magic V and X3: The Reunion. Although there is a slight performance penalty when using Cider, the advantages of using Cider far outweigh the negatives (6 to 12 months for a traditional port).

Ok, this is all good. EA is bringing out six Mac titles. And they're going to use Cider, which means we won't have to wait eons for the Mac port. All good, right? How about the bad stuff?

The Bad
Well, this one is a tough one, but stay with me here….

I've been running Inside Mac Games now since 1993 (damn I'm getting old) and I've seen it all. I remember when EA and Activision were porting titles to the Mac and then seeing them abandon the platform when sales didn't meet their expectations. I remember one Activision executive yelling at me at E3 a few years back, "We sold 3000 copies of Quake III: Arena and you expect us to continue to make games for the Mac"?

So my question is….is EA really ready for the kind of sales figures they will get? Now remember, we're talking about EA here…the biggest game company in the world. The company that posted revenue of $3.09 billion and had 24 titles that sold more than one million copies in 2007. Are they going to be happy with sales of Madden 2008 in the 5,000 to 10,000 range? I can see a title like Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2008 selling a few more copies than that but is it really enough for big ole EA? My biggest question is…did Apple over promise EA? Are they expecting unit sales in the hundreds of thousands when in reality they'll be getting numbers in the low teens.

Now I know what you're going to say….there are more Macs being sold than ever before and that's a good thing. I just don't want to be here a year down the road and write about how EA has now decided to drop their Mac games because of "low unit sales".

The other issue I have are the intangibles. You know how good Aspyr is about marketing, distributing, and supporting their Mac titles. Yes, a few Aspyr games have been known to be buggy, but Aspyr always releases patches for their games, they've always been committed to the Mac, and they know the Mac market.

So in a way I'm a bit surprised that EA has decided to do away with Aspyr (oh wait, except for the The Sims). Remember, when the time comes, EA will have to do PR, marketing, distribution, and support the Mac way.

If you have a problem with Command & Conquer 3 Mac, who would give you better technical support? EA or Aspyr? You send a bug report to EA about the lack of sound in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2008. Who would respond better? EA or Aspyr?

I'm sure these are all scenarios that EA has gone through and I sure hope they have made the right decision to ensure that Mac gamers get what we deserve…good, fun, bug-free, 'Mac' games.

EA, Bring It On, We're Ready
Although I've laid out a few somewhat troubling scenarios where things could go wrong, I don't want you to get the wrong message here. Having EA back in the Mac fold IS a good thing. The Mac NEEDS EA's titles. The Mac also needs more triple-A games on the Mac and hopefully this will convince other game publishers to look at the Mac once again as a viable publishing platform.

If you want to see more games come to the Mac platform, I would urge you to vote with your wallet. Don't pirate Mac games, and show your support by buying an EA game or two when they come out. EA and other will continue to bring more games to the platform if you do so.

Posted on June 11, 2007 at 3:48 pm | 25 Comments

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