Game developer Bungie announced Wednesday that it is reviving Marathon, a video game the company first released on the Mac nearly 30 years ago. The game does not have a single-player story like the original; instead, the focus is on a PvP shooter in which “players inhabit the bodies of Runners, cybernetic mercenaries designed for survival. [Tau Ceti’s] harsh environments, exploring the lost colony that once inhabited the surface of Tau Ceti.
The new Marathon has no official release date. Bungie did release a promotional video – it doesn’t contain any gameplay footage, but it sets the tone for what could be an intriguing game.
Looks cool. But you must have a PC, PlayStation or Xbox Series X/S to play Marathon. The Mac is not on the compatibility list. That’s a big turnoff for me, not only because of what it says about Apple’s gaming endeavours, but because of Marathon’s roots and its special place in my professional history.
Me, the Mac and Marathon
Early in my career as a journalist for Apple, I knew about the games for MacUser magazine. At the time, there was a sense among both Apple and game developers that the Mac gaming market was on the rise. Apple had “game evangelists” who worked specifically with game developers, and they also created and nurtured a Mac gaming community. These evangelists had a passion for what they did and literally wore it on their sleeve. They often carried items such as a leather bomber jacket with embroidery on the back to promote the platform.
Marathon was at the heart of the excitement. I saw a demo of the original Marathon and thought it was what the Mac gaming community needed after the thrill of Specter wore off. Marathon became a hit and gave credibility to the Mac as a gaming platform.
Most important to me are my fond memories of Marathon and the times when the MacUser staff (which included a current Macworld columnist at the time) eagerly awaited 5 p.m. so we could fight each other in Death Matches on the Marathon network. MacUser’s headquarters on the 18th floor of the Foster City Metro Tower would echo with the screams, screams, and laughter (lots of laughter) of us virtually blasting each other to pieces. Damn, it was fun.
I won’t go into the whole story of Bungie and the history of Mac gaming – it’s been told over and over. But when I look back at the Mac, Marathon is a big part of it. (I’m not the only one who thinks so.)
There is hope, but reality can hit you pretty hard in the face
Concerning the current state of Mac gaming, well we made a podcast about it last February and discussed that it doesn’t feel like much is happening to make the Mac a viable gaming platform. Apple says it’s making an effort, but as with much of what Apple is doing these days, it’s keeping those efforts a secret.
That is, if they actually do something. The Marathon announcement is a missed opportunity – imagine the buzz that would have ensued if Bungie had said Marathon was returning to its Mac roots. It would have been a huge win for Apple, the Mac, and the Mac gaming community (if it still exists). Maybe Apple approached Bungie and it was rejected. After all, the Mac has been off Bungie’s radar for a long time.
I suppose there’s still a possibility that Marathon could take place on the Mac. It would require Apple to contact a development partnership. A Mac version shipping at the same time as the other platforms would be great, but if you’re familiar with the Mac gaming market, you probably know in your heart of hearts that’s not going to happen.
The introductory frame of the original Marathon has a quote that says, “Somewhere in heaven…they are waiting.” It’s an ominous opening, but I’m going to flip it here: maybe the Mac gods are waiting for WWDC and will look down from heaven and bless the macOS portion of the upcoming WWDC keynote with a special preview of Marathon on a M series Mac. Then I can once again enjoy the memories of past Marathon death races and look forward to future races.
Arrival? I hope so. But one can only keep faith for so long.
Want to turn on your Mac game? Here are a few guides to help you.