WoW may have lost subscribers compared to its heyday, but make no mistake, WoW is still one of the best MMORPG Mac games available today.
First released in 2004, WoW has been around forever. But the steady stream of immense patches and ambitious Expansions have kept it young and at the forefront of the MMO genre. And its latest expansion, Shadowlands, is no different.
But how good is WoW on Mac? In this post, we’ll test WoW on several machines, including the new M1 Macs, but also go over Shadowlands.
World of Warcraft on Mac: Everything you need to know
|Release Date:||Nov 23, 2020|
World of Warcraft tells the story of the conflict between the Alliance and the Horde. Orcs vs. humans, undead vs. night elves, and so on. As a new player, you’ll get to chose a side (Alliance for life!), select a race, and begin your journey from level 1 to 60.
That journey will be full of quests, battlegrounds, dungeons, and raids. And it all takes place in a huge world that still looks great, a feat for a game that runs on an engine created more than a decade ago. That said, if you’re looking for the best looking MMO, The Elder Scrolls Online may be a better choice.
Competition has never been as fierce as today, SW: TOR and Final Fantasy 14 for Mac come to mind, but World of Warcraft remains the most solid and high-quality MMO in the market, with responsive gameplay, addicting leveling, and challenging Raids and PvP.
Plus, every new expansion introduces excellent new systems and even streamlines the core game to make it even better. And Shadowlands, the game’s latest expansion is another perfect example.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, the latest Expansion
Released on November 23, 2020, Shadowlands comes with the laundry list of new features, zones, and quests you would expect from a WoW expansion. But in this case, the 4 new themed zones are remarkably good, dense, and full of personality. The new Covenants system is a great addition that revitalizes the endgame formula. And on top of it all, Shadowlands does a great job at improving some of the core mechanics in the game.
For example, instead of increasing the level cap again, this time it was reduced to a maximum of 60 levels. Each level should now provide more meaningful increases in progress and power and streamlines the entire experience.
Bottom line: Shadowlands is among the best Expansions ever released for World of Warcraft. It’s not perfect, and it’s not even as good as Legion, but it’s still a great addition to an already great game.
An improved pricing-model
It’s also worth mentioning that last year, Blizzard introduced the biggest change WoW’s pricing-model has ever seen. Instead of having to buy a “battle chest” including the original World of Warcraft and its previous expansions, monthly subscribers now have access to all of that content for free. The only Expansion you will need to buy is the current expansion.
This is a welcome change that newcomers will appreciate. Plus, paying $14.99 a month should be enough to have access to most of the game.
World of Warcraft Mac requirements
These are the official World of Warcraft Mac system requirements (updated with the release of Battle for Azeroth):
- OS: OS X 10.12
- Processor: Intel Core i5-760
- Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, ATI Radeon R9 M290 or Intel HD 530 or better
- A Metal capable GPU
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Hard drive space: 100 GB
Notice the requirements are higher than the previous vanilla World of Warcraft. If your Mac already struggled with WoW, you may want to upgrade to a new machine before jumping back into the world of Azeroth…
That said, the game does support older integrated graphics cards, such as the Intel HD 530, which means Macs from 2013 onward should be able to handle it.
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Can your Mac run World of Warcraft? The Results
As a reminder, this is how we describe the different levels of performance:
- Below 20 FPS: Unplayable: Laggy gameplay, full of stutters and slowdowns.
- 20-30 FPS: Borderline: Can be OK in slow-paced games. Still, not optimal.
- 30-45 FPS: Playable: Acceptable for most (most gaming consoles do this).
- 45-60 FPS: Smooth: Fluid gameplay, with no perceivable stutters.
- 60+ FPS: Very Smooth: For hardcore and professional players, a luxury for most.
We usually aim for 30 FPS, because 30 FPS is enough to guarantee a smooth and fluid experience for most casual gamers.
An improved Mac experience thanks to Metal
World of Warcraft has always offered good performance on Mac but the team over at Blizzard made a significant improvement when they moved the Mac version of the game to Metal with the release of the Legion expansion in 2016.
At the time, we compared both World of Warcraft running with OpenGL and World of Warcraft running with Metal:
World of Warcraft was the first game ever to support Apple’s then-new Metal graphics API and the results were incredible. The Metal version of the game was 61% faster than the older OpenGL version!
World of Warcraft on M1 Macs
The latest M1 Macs with Apple ARM-based processors are a big deal. As always, Apple didn’t hesitate to call them revolutionary when M1 Macs were revealed. Apple can be overly optimistic when revealing new products, but this time they were right.
M1 Macs are nothing short of impressive, as they are able to run games significantly better than their Intel-based counterparts. And this applies to all games, even those that do not have a native M1 version yet.
And when for those games that do, such as World of Warcraft, the results are impressive (in Frames per Second):
|Benchmark||2016 MacBook Pro||M1 MacBook Air||Change (%)|
|800p & Medium Settings||35.5||60*||+69%|
|900p & Ultra Settings||–||60*||–|
|1280p & Ultra Settings||–||40.5||–|
And keep in mind that frames were locked to 60 FPS maximum on the M1 MacBook Air! Otherwise, it would have melted the 13-inch MacBook Pro even more. Our tests running the game at higher settings and resolution are proof of how fast M1 Macs can be compared to their Intel-based counterparts!
Can my Mac run World of Warcraft?
This graph shows you how our Intel-based Macs performed when running the game:
As you can see, the game runs great on all three Macs, including our 2013 13-inch MacBook Pro.
PS: 35.5 FPS on a 6-year old machine with integrated graphics is respectable, especially for an MMO.
World of Warcraft is a forgiving game that should run on most modern Macs. If you have a high-end Mac, be it a 15-inch MacBook Pro, an iMac, or any machine with dedicated graphics, you should be able to run it on high settings and at least 1080p resolution.
Our iMac can run the game at an impressive 156.9 FPS (frames per second), leaving a lot of room to significantly increase the game’s settings while maintaining 60+ FPS.
Can you play World of Warcraft on a MacBook Pro?
If you happen to have a more “casual” MacBook, say a 13-inch MacBook Pro with integrated graphics, you should still be able to easily run this game.
Our 2016 13-inch MBP can run the game at a comfortable 78.4 FPS. As long as your MBP is from 2015 or newer, rest assured it will run World of Warcraft without breaking a sweat.
But what if you have an older MacBook?
This section is usually where it gets tricky as older Macs offer a very limited gaming performance. In this case, however, even our older 2013 13-inch MBP runs World of Warcraft just fine at 35.5 FPS.
If you’re worried your Mac is too old to play this game, don’t worry. World of Warcraft on Mac is a well-optimized game that makes great use of MacOS’s latest technologies (Metal 2.0) and should run on virtually any Mac from 2012 onward.
Testing Conditions: How we benchmarked World of Warcraft on Mac
World of Warcraft may be over 10 years old but the game has seen its fair share of graphical upgrades over the years. Plus, MMOs have always been surprisingly demanding, not because of the levels of detail required but because of the sheer size of their worlds.
To evaluate how demanding WoW on Mac really is, we tested it on the following machines:
- 13-inch MacBook Air (M1, 2020): Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU, 8 GB RAM
- 13-inch MacBook Pro (2016): 2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)
- 27-inch iMac (5K, 2014): 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)
- 13-inch MacBook Pro (2013): 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel Iris 5100 (1.5GB)
Using our in-house FPS counter, we tested all machines using the following settings:
- 1280×800 or equivalent resolution
- Graphics Quality: Level 5
- V-Sync: Disabled
All benchmarks consisted of 5 minutes of real-time gameplay in an open area, running around and killing everything in sight. We prefer to test games outdoors because they tend to be more demanding and taxing than indoors.
For the record, Medium settings and 1280×800 resolution may seem low but it’s the best compromise when testing both high-end and low-end models. box.
PS: These are our favorite accessories for playing/testing games on Mac!
|Game||★ Best Mouse||Best Controller||Best eGPU|
|Why we love it?||The G502 is Logitech's most accurate gaming mouse yet. Plus, it has a plethora of buttons and a killer design.||The official PS4 controller just works on Mac. It's wireless, it's precise, it has an excellent grip and it's durable.||The Razer Core X turns your MacBook or Mac Mini into a killer gaming machine by adding external graphics support.|
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|Price||From $56||From $39.99||From $299.99|
Download World of Warcraft for Mac
World of Warcraft has always been one of the most expensive MMOs in the market. Yet that’s never been a problem, as WoW has always delivered a premium experience well-worth the $15 a month.
What was annoying was the need to also purchase the base game plus each Expansion as they came out. Luckily, that changed when World of Warcraft (and all previous Expansions) became free to all subscribers.
You can purchase the Shadowlands expansion on Blizzard’s official store:
World of Warcraft Mac Review
There's a reason no MMOs has managed to take its crown. 10 years later, World of Warcraft remains the best MMO on the market. And since the game was moved from OpenGL to Metal, performance has gone through the roof, allowing most modern Macs to run it without breaking a sweat.
Operating System: macOS 10.12 and up
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