World of Warcraft Mac Review

Can your Mac run it?

By Ric Molina | Published April 22, 2019

World of Warcraft shouldn’t need an introduction. Mostly known as WoW by fans, World of Warcraft isn’t only the most famous MMORPG ever created, it’s one of the most popular games in history.

WoW may have lost subscribers over the years, heck, some even claim its glory days are behind us, 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.

But how good is WoW on Mac? Like every other game from its developer, Blizzard, WoW has a terrific Mac version. So much so, it even runs great on older Macs. Read on for all the details.

What’s new with World of Warcraft on Mac?

The game’s latest Expansion, Battle for Azeroth, was released on August 14, 2018. Gamers were disappointed at launch, but Blizzard has been working hard to improve it and fix its problems.

Plus, with every prior Expansion becoming free a few months ago, getting started with World of Warcraft only requires a monthly subscription! 

You can read more about it below.

First things first, is the game any good?

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 120.

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, Elder Scrolls Online for Mac is they way to go.

WoW Battle for Azeroth Mac 2

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.

In spite of being an excellent MMO overall, Battle for Azeroth, the game’s current Expansion, was heavily criticized at launch:

Metascore

%

User Reviews

To be fair, Blizzard has been working tirelessly to solve all of the issues gamers have complained about, with several patches and updates released so far.

As IGN puts it:

Battle for Azeroth isn’t the most ambitious expansion ever, but many of its memorable quests take place in beautiful new zones, and the Azerite armor and amulet hold a lot of promise.

Plus, all of the excellent systems introduced by Legion and every expansion before it are still there, keeping WoW fun and engaging.

What’s new with World of Warcraft on Mac?

Last summer, 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 Battle for Azeroth, the current expansion, and that won’t be necessary until you hit Legion’s Level 110 cap.

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.

Battle for Azeroth, the latest Expansion

Battle for Azeroth was released for Mac and Windows on August 14, 2018.

Battle for Azeroth, the game’s current Expansion, introduced new zones to explore, new World Bosses (taking a page from Guild Wars 2‘s book), new raids and dungeons, new races and a new level cap of 120. But much more noteworthy is the inclusion of a new game mode called Warfront.

WoW Mac Warfront

In Warfront, you can take part in huge 20-player cooperative PvE battles that mimic real-time strategy games such as the old-school classic Warcraft 3.

World of Warcraft

Our Score ★★★★★

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: 70 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 into Battle for 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.

The Test: Can you play 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.

World of Warcraft graphics evolution

To evaluate how demanding WoW on Mac really is, we tested it on the following machines:

iMac 27-Inch (5K, Late 2014)

3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M290X (2GB)

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)

2.0 GHz Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540 (1.5GB)

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 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:

  • 1280x800 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.

And for the record, Medium settings and 1280x800 resolution may seem low but it’s the best compromise when testing both high-end and low-end models.

The Results: World of Warcraft can run on anything (almost)

This graph shows you how our Macs performed:

World of Warcraft Mac results

Expand to see how to interpret these results
For your reference, this is how we describe the different levels of performance (in frames per second):

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.

FPS comparator

!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 machine featuring 6-year old integrated graphics is respectable, especially for an MMO.

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 Metal VS OpenGL V2

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!

Can my Mac run World of Warcraft?

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 the game on high settings and at least 1080p resolution.

Our iMac runs 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.

World of Warcraft Mac graphics V2

Can you play World of Warcraft on a MacBook Pro?

If you happen to have a more “average” 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’ latest technologies (Metal 2.0) and should run on virtually any Mac from 2012 onward.

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.

That said, you still have a couple options when it comes to purchasing the game. To help you understand what each version of the game includes, we created this table (PS, they all require a $14.99 monthly subscription):

Final thoughts

Ever since World of Warcraft moved from OpenGL to Metal, performance went through the roof. Nowadays, most modern Macs should be able to run it without breaking a sweat. 

Excellent performance, even on MacBooks with integrated graphics

WoW still looks good after all these years

Demand level: Low