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Game developer Valve today released an updated set of usage statistics, including those for its Steam for Mac digital distribution platform. There’s diamonds and lead depending on your point of view.

Bad news first, of course. Mac usage of the gaming service has dropped off since the big debut a few months ago. Originally around 8 percent, Mac usage has fallen down to about 5 percent of the total Steam audience.

Good news! Five percent of Steam’s 25 million users is still a significant audience. Add this to EA and Blizzard’s growing support for native Mac games – those developed in-house simultaneously with the PC version, rather than transcribed by a third party like Aspyr.

Apple seems to be taking notice, too. The recent Snow Leopard Graphics Update was tuned to clear up issues that Valve reported, so that’s definitely good.

More detail analysis after the break.

Now let’s put all that in perspective. The service kicked off with a free copy of Portal and a good amount of publicity. Many of those initial users might have been console gamers who computed on Macs and wanted to “represent” (note: Guilty party writing) and interest fell off.

Likewise, Steam has a global audience and 5 percent of the Steam audience falls pretty nicely in line with the overall Mac usage statistic (about 8 percent in the US and a little more than 6 percent worldwide)

The majority of them are playing on a MacBook Pro, although model year and the like aren’t quite broken down as much as we’d like. iMacs are the next biggest model on the list, but represent 25 percent of Mac users as opposed to the MBP’s forty-nine percent.

Judging by the “most used” displays and graphics cards, it would appear that the previous (mid-2009) batch of 13-inch MacBook Pros are the most popular devices. The cheaper end of the MacBook Pro spectrum and certainly not the optimum machine for some tasks.

Mac gaming still has a long way to go, but this is definitely a good sign. John Carmack’s QuakeCon keynote address touched on how much he liked Apple’s approach – the hardware/software control level makes it possible to do all sorts of cool things you can’t do on a PC.

When Apple switched to Intel chips, most people said it wouldn’t increase the software for Mac. Just four years later you’re looking at only a few niche and proprietary programs being Mac only and many really awesome ones that are ONLY for Mac.

Valve has done the same thing. Steam for Mac simply existing means that gaming on the Mac will improve, exponentially.

If you build it, they will come. Check the read link for full statistics.


About the author: Jonathan Harrop


Jonathan graduated in May of 2008 with a degree in Journalism in News/Print from the University of Arkansas. He currently lives in the Dallas, Texas area and has recently learned that 'freelance writer,' like 'starving artist' is not a cliche. Jonathan has played video games since Desert Strike forced him to break his 'B' button on his Sega Genesis controller.


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