Oculus Rift, a virtual reality head-mounted display, will hit the shelves early 2016. Though the device has been met with widespread acclaim and excitement, it comes with a major downside, especially for Mac users – there won’t be any Mac support, at least for now.
Atman Binstock, the chief architect of the project, announced the specifications for Windows computers along with this:
Our development for OS X and Linux has been paused in order to focus on delivering a high quality consumer-level VR experience at launch across hardware, software, and content on Windows. We want to get back to development for OS X and Linux but we don’t have a timeline.
This comes as a downer for numerous Mac users who would have loved to play certain games on the Mac with it. The computers boast serious and amazing specifications and can even arguably match up with PC as a gaming platform.
Why isn’t Oculus supporting OS X?
It will be, but there’s no concrete timeline yet.
This is an understandable marketing strategy for Oculus – though they were acquired by Facebook for a whopping two billion, they don’t exactly have unlimited pockets and considering that they are launching an untested product, they need to boom in the first release. The number of Windows gamers obviously outnumber OS X ones: Mac hasn’t established itself as a gaming platform yet, even with the entry of Steam and the numerous games in the App Store.
Oculus cannot cater to everybody at this point and the wise option is to go for the strongest market, which are Windows users.
Most Macs can’t handle Oculus’ graphics requirement
Both iMacs and MacBooks are pretty advanced: the RAM is higher than average, the processor speeds are insanely high, and the software is top-notch. Before we discuss Mac’s compatibility, let’s take a look at the recommended PC specs:
- NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290
- Intel i5-4590
- 8GB RAM
The Rift will also require:
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer
- 2x USB 3.0 ports
- HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture
These requirements are rather too much for a normal PC – you would need to upgrade your current or buy a new high-end one specially made for gaming. With that said, can we safely say that Macs are too amazing that we can simply run Boot Camp or Parallels and start Oculus?
Nope, and there’s barely anything we can do about it. Rift requires powerful GPUs, or graphics processing units. The above mentioned graphics cards, NVIDIA GTX 970 are both priced at over $300 – an insane investment if ever. These are not present in Mac computers as most of them use mobile GPUs, which are relatively inferior compared to high-powered desktop ones. Even Macs which are equipped with high definition Retina displays are using these GPUs.
To put it bluntly, Macs’ processors are not powerful enough to support Oculus’ requirements.
Why we won’t see Mac support soon
Again, we reiterate: gaming isn’t a priority for Apple and they will hardly make any adjustments to their chipsets and GPUs to adjust to Oculus’ requirements. Note that people don’t buy iMacs or MacBooks to play games – they’re mainly used for work-related and professional matters.
Apple is also committed to releasing insanely thin versions of their computers every year, so it’s unlikely that we’ll get to see Macs equipped with powerful chips next spring.
However, it’s always best to be optimistic: Apple’s mobile GPUs could be as powerful as their desktop versions in the future. Also, if the Rift becomes a commercial success, we will likely Oculus support Mac soon, albeit with a dressed down version to lessen the burden carried by its graphics cards. For short, the specifications will be adjusted for Mac users.
In the gaming world, this is a regular occurrence. For example, some Playstation 3 and Playstation 4 games’ graphics are adjusted if they are being ported to the Playstation Vita. There are sacrifices which must be done to create a playable game.
The vision for Oculus
Numerous games are already in development for the Oculus, including Team Fortress 2 and War Thunder. Numerous others are still in development, including Sword Art Online, a game based on anime series wherein characters use the same kind of technology (albeit more advanced) to enter a game world.
Other than being a full-on gaming platform, Oculus Rift is also eyed to become a social platform. The company behind Second Life, a virtual world, is eyeing to create an Oculus-supported version. Meanwhile, car manufacturer Audi is using it to give customers a VR-version of a test drive in their dealerships. There are even rumors about it being used to enable people to watch sports games as if sitting court side on their couches at home.
We may not see Oculus Rift support for Mac, but we can definitely bank on having one in the future. And when it is, we’re giving Oculus our money.