What it is: Gaming developers rely on a graphics library called OpenGL, but Apple is shifting towards their own Metal graphics library instead.
The next version of macOS will be the last to support OpenGL, which many game developers rely on to create video games that can run on multiple platforms such as macOS and Windows. Without OpenGL, game developers threaten they won’t write games for the Macintosh any more.
From Apple’s point of view, keeping OpenGL means creating less than optimized video games. If the Macintosh can only play less than optimized video games, there will be no reason for anyone to buy a Macintosh to play video games. Already most people buy PCs for video games because of the lower cost, greater customizability, and optimized video games just for Windows. So dumping OpenGL isn’t much of a loss for Apple since this forces game developers to either stop creating games for the Macintosh or to start creating optimized games for the Macintosh. Either way, Apple wins because that will mean all available video games in the future will be optimized for the Macintosh.
For game developers, this means learning a new graphics library to create video games. While many game developers rely on OpenGL, many simply use the optimized graphics library in Windows called DirectX. This creates optimized video games just for Windows, which is part of the reason why Windows is popular with video game players.
Ultimately the question boils down to ease of development with a loss of optimization. If game developers only create games with mediocre performance on Windows PCs and the Macintosh by relying on OpenGL, their games may still be fun to play, but they won’t be optimized for any particular platform. If they optimize for each platform (Windows and Macintosh), now they’ll need to learn different graphics libraries such as DirectX and Metal.
The threat of game developers leaving the Macintosh is no threat to Apple at all since the Macintosh isn’t popular as a game platform anyway so Apple has nothing to lose by forcing developers to focus on optimized games through Metal. Once developers learn Metal, they can easily create video games to iOS as well since iOS relies on Metal too. That creates optimized video games for the Macintosh and the iPhone/iPad, which is a huge market.
Ultimately the game developers who refuse to learn Metal will shut themselves out of the lucrative iOS market and the mildly profitable Macintosh market. OpenGL is a good idea but optimization is a better one. Large gaming companies shouldn’t have a problem relying on different graphics libraries but independent developers will need to focus on one market or another initially. That means relying on Microsoft’s DirectX for Windows gaming or Metal for iOS/macOS gaming.
OpenGL is dead for Apple products. That means gaming developers must focus on optimizing their games for individual platforms because performance is what customers want and ultimately, that’s all that really matters.