I have a 2007-model Mac Mini Core Duo 1.83GHz with 2 GB RAM. I adore my Mini, but I am limited in the gaming department due to my Mini’s integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics chip. Newer generations of Minis use the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor. Using the NVIDIA graphics, newer Minis can play more complex games than I am able to with my hardware.
A favorite game of mine is Spore. I don’t think Spore got the best reception from PC gamers, but I personally enjoy playing it. EA Games generously provides both a PC and Mac version of the game on the Spore install DVD. Unfortunately, the system requirements for the game strictly forbid Mac Minis using the GMA 950 graphics chip. I did a lot of online research and found people who said they were able to rig it to work, and others who disputed that.
Frustrated at all of the conflicting information, I decided to try it myself. After a lengthy install, the game updated with patches from EA, but when the actual game launched, it failed time and time again. Therefore, I’m here to say once and for all, you cannot play Spore on a Mac Mini that uses Intel GMA 950 graphics. Period!
With that being said, you can run Spore on the very same Mac Mini if you boot Windows via Boot Camp. Within Snow Leopard, I activated Boot Camp and installed Windows XP SP3. From the Windows side, Spore is indeed playable with the same hardware. Go figure.
So now I am enjoying the fun of Spore, only I’m doing so running Windows on my Mac machine. Doing so, Spore runs just fine using the lowest graphic quality settings within the game, at 800×600 full-screen resolution. I hope this clears up all of the Spore/Mac Mini uncertainty that is all over the web.