What Does the Upcoming ARM-based Mac Mean for Gamers?

Apple’s big announcement during its 2020 World Wide Developer Conference sent shock waves to the tech community.

The company will no longer use Intel’s computer chips to power its new line of MacBooks. Instead, Apple is turning to Advanced RISC Machine (ARM) chips. Unlike Intel, ARM architecture is licensed to external chipmakers who have considerable leeway to customize the technology based on their unique designs. And for a company like Apple, this flexibility can work to its advantage.

So does this mean that Apple can finally make a high-powered PC that can take on more complex tasks like gaming? Or would you still be better off getting an affordable Intel-based gaming laptop?

A shift to a bold new direction

If you’ve never heard of ARM before, you’ll be surprised how ubiquitous it actually is. It’s the computing architecture that powers the chips inside most mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

But by taking this bold direction, the new MacBooks are likely to behave a lot more like iPhones or iPads. This not only blurs the line between the operating systems of these three devices, but it can also make desktop gaming a bit more challenging.

While it does seem reasonable for Apple to take advantage of ARM’s flexibility and inject better gaming capabilities, at this point, it’s too early to tell how ARM Macs will perform in the realm of PC gaming.

Safe to say, though, don’t expect to be playing the latest AAA titles on an ARM MacBook Pro anytime soon.

A potential boon for mobile gamers

That being said, it’s not a total loss for the gaming community. Apple Arcade —unveiled in 2019 — has a growing number of mobile games that subscribers can access for a small fee across all Apple devices. While the service has a relatively decent price tag, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Once the first cohort of new ARM MacBooks ship later this year — or maybe early next year, depending on the impact of the pandemic — avid mobile gamers should expect the Apple Arcade library to fill up with even more captivating and immersive titles.

Additionally, some users and technology enthusiasts are excited about the changes.

With an ARM CPU, Apple can build a more efficient Mac line-up that doesn’t gobble up too much power and efficiently cools internal systems.

Beyond gaming, the ability to seamlessly switch between phone, tablet, and laptop can open up new workflows. This can result in better productivity.

However, with a new system in place, many programs (e.g., Microsoft, Adobe) would have to adjust once again to operate on the new Macs. The process is a bit easier with Apple’s decision to initiate a two-year transition phase to Apple silicon.

To that end, the company has been offering limited use of a developer transition kit that can help convert existing applications to run on the new ARM-based system.

It remains to be seen how these new developments will pan out. In the meantime, serious PC gamers should probably stay where they are. For those new to desktop gaming, it might be best to skip ARM MacBooks.