As we approach the new year, the tides of change are among us. The chill in the air, the hustling wind, and the falling leaves signal the coming of winter. Ready or not, here it comes.
One of the common themes that I often explore in State of the Game is change. Like the seasons, change is inevitable. And the Mac games market is no different. Whether it be good or bad, it's just something that can't escape us.
The 800-Pound GorillaAspyr's ascent to the top of the Mac games market has been an impressive one. In its short 7 year period, this Austin, TX based company has been the motto for change. Once a 3 man company, Aspyr now employs 37 people. Once relegated to porting just Macintosh games, the company is now delving into PC, GameBoy Advance, and even DVD's and music.Despite its foray into markets in search of bigger fish, Aspyr remains steadfast in its dedication to the Mac games market. In the last year it has published over a dozen new Macintosh titles and this fall promises to be one of the biggest for Aspyr as it releases games such as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, Raven Shield, Indiana Jones, Star Trek: Elite Force II, and many more.
Aspyr also recently turned many heads when it announced the hiring of Glenda Adams, Brad Oliver, and Mark Krenek. The hiring of Glenda Adams over the summer followed by the recent hiring of Oliver and Krenek show Aspyr flexing its muscle.
When I asked Glenda Adams why Aspyr was doing this, this is what she had to say: "More resources and more control. We're doing so many Mac games now (20+ a year), we couldn't rely solely on outside developers to staff up enough to make sure we had enough developers to do all the work. Plus it does give us more control - we can schedule our internal programmers more easily across several projects, and not worry about conflicts with projects a contractor might be doing for someone else. We'll still have too many games to do in house, so we do want to continue to work with Westlake/i5/beenox/transgaming."
"Control of the code is a big issue too - if we get more pressure from our licensors to keep the code in-house for security reasons, we'll need to have programmers here. I'm hoping having this option will let us work on some games we couldn't have done in the past."
The ramifications of Aspyr hiring programmers away from Westlake aren't perfectly clear yet. Only time will tell how Westlake, and more importantly, how companies that depend on Westlake (namely MacSoft) to port games to the Mac are able to adjust. With Westlake's number's reduced, and with the recent announcement that the Omni Group will no longer be porting games (Omni recently finished their last two ports: Aliens vs Predator 2 and No One Lives Forever 2 for MacPlay), these companies will need to adjust in order to compete with Aspyr.
Aspyr is, without a doubt, the 800-pound gorilla of the Mac gaming market. Its power and influence is impressive. A company like Aspyr has the power to out bid, out market and out muscle its competition. But is having one overly dominant Mac game publisher good for the Mac gaming market? I don't claim to know the answer, but it's interesting to speculate on it in such a fragile market such as this one.
Share and Share AlikeOne of the things that I've been most impressed about is the incredible amount of shareware companies developing top quality games for the Mac. Companies such as Freeverse, Ambrosia, Phelios, GarageGames, Dracosoft, DanLab Games, MonkeyByte, Skunk Studious, and countless others are producing top-notch Mac OS X titles. If you're a regular visitor to Macgamefiles,com, you'll often find some new and amazing gems.
In fact, if you visit a site like VersionTracker.com, you'll find dozens upon dozens of new shareware and freeware utilities for Mac OS X. What was just a trickle is now a steady of amazing shareware products for the Mac.
What can we attribute to this flood of shareware? My guess is Mac OS X itself. The shareware community has responded to the needs of a new operating system in full force and it's just an amazing thing to see.
Games are no different. I find myself downloading and playing more shareware games than ever before. And even my 7 year old step-son has been downloading and trying out a bunch of shareware games.
So, my advice to you, if you're looking for something new to play with, be sure to check out some of the amazing shareware games now available for Mac OS X.
The Seeds of ChangeAs I finish this article, I'm amazed to see snow out the window. Fall is here and Christmas is right around the corner. Apple is finally shipping the Power Mac G5, Mac OS X Panther is right around the corner, and with the Christmas season just upon us, more Mac games are on their way than ever before.
What a wonderful time it is to be a Mac gamer…