Mac Games Arcade Review: The Mac Gamer’s Answer to Steam?

C-
Mac Games Arcade

Cost:

Free

By:

Inside Mac Games, Inc.
- Offers Steam-like experience
- Great variety of independent games
- Easy to use interface
- Doesn't accept PayPal
- Few major publishers on board
- Lacks expansive community features

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Digital distribution has long been a part of the purchasing power of Mac users, and yet in the past few years organized digital distribution services have become all the rage amongst Windows-based PC gamers.  Services like Steam and Direct2Drive have been offering PC gamers an online storefront from which they could purchase all of the leading and independent games of the day.  Mac gamers though?  We’ve been left out in the cold…until now.  Inside Mac Games, the proprietors of such sites as MacGameStore.com and MacGameFiles.com, has recently launched Mac Games Arcade.  But is it everything we’d hoped for?

Mac Games Arcade is an online storefront that attempts to bring a Steam-like experience to the world of Mac Gaming.  Steam, the Valve-owned PC only direct download software, offers a wide range of gaming software as well as community features, friends lists, and even achievements.  While Mac Games Arcade hasn’t reached the level of accomplishment or expansiveness that Valve has, the groundwork is there and is glowing with potential.

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Maneuvering around Mac Games Arcade should feel quite comfortable for any seasoned Mac-veteran as the design asthetic is a carbon copy of iTunes.  One might argue that this means that the software lacks of originality, however what it lacks in originality it makes up for in familiarity.  Anyone can pick up Mac Games Arcade and feel intimately acquainted with the layout from the first minute.

The software offers a number of titles from a range of different publishers, although asides from UbiSoft most are independent publishers.  The vast majority of these titles offer demos, which when considering the familiarity most will have with the titles offered is definitely a blessing.  In theory, a Mac gaming storefront would be a fantastic offering.  However without a few larger publishers with solid Mac-support like EA or Blizzard jump on board, Mac Games Arcade can’t be much more than a repository for obscure (and often fantastic) games that the public at large isn’t asking for.  Sure Democracy 2 is one of the best thinking man’s games around, but that doesn’t mean it’s an alternative for a gamer looking to pick up Spore or Diablo.

A lack of true community features also takes something away from the experience.  While PC-only offerings like Steam offer friends lists, forums, achievements and the like, Mac Games Arcade only seems to offer a community review option.  Again, Mac Games Arcade seemed more intent on copying what it learned from iTunes than what it did from it’s direct competitors.  Much like in iTunes the reviews are appreciated, but Mac Games Arcade isn’t iTunes.  As a gaming storefront it needs to build on the sparse community features it already has so that it can get the footing it needs before a bigger competitor decides to bring it’s wares to the Mac marketplace.

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Purchases are an incredibly straightforward process in Mac Games Arcade.  After adding everything to your cart you’re whisked away to a quick checkout area and done in moments.  Unfortunately this is only the case for those willing to pay with a credit card.  Those looking for a non-CC method of payment like PayPal or Google Checkout are out of luck.  It seems strange for a digital distributor in this day and age to limit their methods of payment to credit card only, but that’s exactly what they’ve done.  Hopefully things will open up a bit down the road and allow payments that reflect the modern age of their services, but as it stands you’ll need to break out the plastic if you want to play Monopoly via Mac Games.

Mac Games Arcade, while rife with stumbling blocks at launch, has the potential to become a predominant form of game shopping for Mac gaming enthusiasts.  It’s iTunes-style interface is accessible, it’s variety of independent games is fantastic, and best of all it’s free.  However it’s lack of community features, lack of major developer support, and limited payment options make it hard to endorse.  The good news?  None of the issues we have are unfixable.  Given some time and some much needed adjustments, Mac Games Arcade could be a great portal for Mac Gamers.  Until that day though, it’s probably worth steering clear.

Mac Games Arcade is available from MacGamesArcade.com for free.

Comments

9 Responses to “Mac Games Arcade Review: The Mac Gamer’s Answer to Steam?”

  1. gamblor on January 5th, 2009 4:28 pm

    Seeing as though we are comparing it to Steam, Steam doesn’t have PayPal support. And Steam lacked major developers when it first launched. It took a lot longer for developers to sign on to Steam than what it seems to be taking Mac Games Arcade – they already have Ubisoft and that would be no small feat.

    I really question why PayPal support seems to be such a deal breaker. For Mac Games Arcade, it has HUGE fees (a little bit of investigation would’ve revealed this) when compared to other solutions and is harder to integrate into a desktop product. The downside of such a popular system like PayPal is they don’t have the flexibility to allow for completely customized and seamless integrations.

  2. Jim Squires on January 5th, 2009 5:18 pm

    Not to argue, but Steam definitely supports PayPal. I use it pretty frequently and it’s my preferred method of payment.

  3. gamblor on January 5th, 2009 5:28 pm

    I stand corrected then. I’ve never used PayPal on Steam before, just credit card.

    My mistake!

  4. Fyre Vortex on January 7th, 2009 4:42 am

    @gamblor Good… If Steam supports PayPal then I will be using it. Have been reading on Steam (Although it doesn’t have some games that I want to get, such as Halo 2)…

    I have checked Mac Games Arcade but haven’t seen any good games I should get… Anyone have any ideas?

  5. Gram Ranger on January 29th, 2009 4:57 pm

    Well, the three cons I see, are not cons in my book. I have been using macgames arcade for awhile now and I love it.

    No paypal? Considering i hate paypal with utter disgust at every little fee they charge for whatever, i say no great loss. Screw paypal. So, thats a plus in my book that a company is standing up against paypal integration! Although it seems they do accept paypal if you buy a game through the website version of the app.

    No publishers? I was looking on the list on the site, and thats a huge list. I didnt know that many existed. Really. Theres also more games there than I can buy, so thats good.

    Community stuff? Eh… this is a game app to play solo games with. Who cares about community crap. Face it, the internet is a festing pool of filth when it comes to forums and chat rooms or whatever. Hypocryt here, cause typing up this is just the same haha.

    MY negatives of the app are that its still in 1.0 and is missing some needed ease-of-use features… but it looks like they are adding them or working on them, so i just gotta be patient and wait for them.

  6. computer games on September 30th, 2009 11:56 pm

    One of the many things I love about this blog is that it cares for the many new Mac users. Not many blogs that I have found provide as much interest in serving the Mac community as you guys are! Thanks!

  7. releppes on April 29th, 2010 10:29 am

    I’ve used Steam before and had a very positive experience. Buy once, download as much as you want, play from any machine and soon there will be a Mac client!

    I like how Steam runs mega specials every now and then. I bought Team Fortress 2 for $2.99 last fall! I wish I bought the Orange Box special when I had the chance. Once the Mac client comes out (hopefully soon), Valve will allow prior owners of their Window titles to download the OS X versions for free. I wish all software publishers did this.

    The only thing I have against Steam is their focus is mostly for the hard core gamer. They just started selling casual and family games, but their prices are higher than competition (BigFishGames or SandlotGames).

    I’ll look into MacGameArcade to see how their prices compare. One thing I don’t like already is you can’t seem to do anything without installing the client. At least with Steam you can browse your account and shop for games without even having the client installed (ie: you can do it from any OS with a browser)

    Having Ubisoft on MacGameArcade’s side is a big plus. However, I’d only shell out the big bucks for an Ubisoft title if I knew I could play the game on both Windows and Mac (ie: buy the product once, allow installation on both platforms). Same goes for Blizzard. I already own Blizzard titles for Windows. I will not buy them again just because I switched to a Mac. This is where Valve has my support and dedication. If they honor a single purchase for both platforms (with Linux in the works), then Valve titles are definitely on my A-list. All software should be like this.

  8. releppes on April 29th, 2010 4:54 pm

    OK, I just installed MacGameArcade to check out the prices. I only did a quick search of a few games I was interested in. In some cases, the price was more than double the cost.

    At the time of this post, Westward 2 was $20 at MacGamesArcade (Westward 3 was $10). At SandlotGame, it was only $7 for both ($5 for Windows version). Steam had the Windows version for $8, but when the OS X version of the Steam client comes out, supposedly you’ll be able to pay once and download either (or both) versions. My understanding from SandlotGames is that if you want the Windows version as well as the Mac version, you’ll need to buy it twice (seeing as how the same game carries two different price tags.

    Overall, for this particular game, it’s a far better deal to purchase through Steam. Multiplatform client, cheaper prices, and support the notion of purchasing a title once, but having the rights to install on any platform (Windows and soon Mac, Linux in the works). In fact, you can buy Westward1, 2, and 3 for only $15.

    MacGamesArcade seems nice if you’re into the iTunes interface and don’t mind paying higher prices for everything. I personally like SandlotGames for casual games. They even give one game away per week! But Steam is much better if you’re gaming on multiple platforms. Plus when Steam runs deals, you can’t beat the price.

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