By:Inside Mac Games, Inc.
- Great variety of independent games
- Easy to use interface
- Few major publishers on board
- Lacks expansive community features
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.
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.
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.