For the 27 or so people who game on Macs, a storm is brewing: Apple Notarization will soon be a firm requirement for every application in the Apple ecosystem. Unfortunately, the process is a bit labyrinthine and Mac gaming may be in for some turbulent times after the changes go through.
What is Apple Notarization?
If you’re not a developer, you probably have no idea what “notarization” is. Heck, I had no idea what it is. To keep it simple, if you’ve ever seen the pop-up after installing a program that says something like “This publisher isn’t verified”, that’s notarization. It means that the software has been checked by Apple to ensure that it doesn’t have anything nasty on it.
With Windows, User Account Control (UAC) offers up a pop-up whenever you try to install something. If the installer isn’t set up correctly, you’ll get a message like “This publisher is not verified” but you’ll still be able to proceed with the install anyway. The Apple ecosystem is going to be doing things a little differently by instituting a firm requirement that all apps must be notarized.
Unfortunately, getting the process done is a bit of a mess.
Soon Apple will require every macOS application to be “notarized”.
This is going to impact all developers who don’t use Xcode, don’t distribute through the App Store, or wish to upkeep old software.
— Paolo Pedercini (@molleindustria) September 14, 2019
How Do You Get an App Notarized, Anyway?
Let’s pretend you’re a developer — how exactly do you get Apple Notarization for your program? Well, it sure ain’t easy.
Paolo Pedercini wrote a guide to the whole process. While it should be perfectly serviceable for now, he notes that it is “it’s likely to become obsolete as soon as Apple comes up with some new bullshit.”
Actually getting the process done needs macOS 10.14+, Xcode 10.3+ (all ten gigs of it!), a distribution certificate, probably your firstborn child, and a hell of a lot of patience. Don’t have the most current version of Mac OS? You are what we in the industry call “S.O.L.”, probably.
The Ramifications for Mac Gaming
Earlier this month, a reminder that Apple Notarization was necessary for the latest version of MacOS went out to developers. Devs will have until January 2020 to get the process done, so there’s still a little bit of time.
One particular sentence in this reminder is the most troubling bit:
As a reminder, Mac software distributed outside the Mac App Store must be notarized by Apple in order to run on macOS Catalina.
Suppose that you’ve enjoyed Mac gaming and have a hefty collection of vidya (or even just regular apps) that debuted years ago. The developer has long been defunct, so it’s not like you’re going to get any updates anytime soon. Heck, the source code might not even exist anymore. What happens to that program or game when this requirement goes through? Odds are, you won’t be able to use it anymore. Beyond this, some developers are considering no longer releasing on Mac due to the added cost (you have to be an Apple Developer to get notarized which has an annual fee) and time this takes up.
Even Valve has been forced to get on board, releasing an announcement to developers that they will require notarization for future mac releases, and releasing a FAQ for players about how to access older games, which largely amounts to emulate, don’t update or have a separate install of the older Mac version.
Developers have a little over three months to get the process done. After that, we’re liable to see some level of anger and chaos as unmaintained programs stop functioning on the latest version of MacOS.
What do you think of the upcoming Apple Notarization requirement? Do you think this is a good idea on Apple’s part or would you prefer a Microsoft-style system whee you can run unsigned programs at your own risk? Let us know in the comments below!