Google’s Chrome OS started out as little more than a browser, but Google has slowly added more application support with Android and Linux modules. Chrome OS might be getting a lot more fun, too. According to a new report, Google is looking to make gaming on Chromebooks happen by adding support for Steam.
The report comes from Android Police, which recently talked with Kan Liu, Director of Product Management for Chrome OS. Liu was vague on some of the details — for example, he implied that Valve was involved in the development process but wouldn’t come out and say it. Although, that would make sense as Valve is experiencing more competition than ever on Windows with the launch of the Epic Games store. Being first on Chrome OS could give it access to many millions of devices. Liu was, however, confident Google could make this work considering the increasingly cross-platform nature of games and universal computing APIs like Vulkan.
Valve already has a Linux Steam client, and that’s probably Google’s starting point. Chrome OS has support for Linux via its “Crostini” module. That’s currently a beta feature that you need to enable in the settings, but it works surprisingly well. Steam has a selection of games that support Linux, or at least they should on x86-based systems. You might not get all the latest AAA games on Linux, but that’s not going to be a problem here. After all, we’re talking about Chromebooks.
Google designed Chrome OS to be streamlined and efficient, so Chromebooks have never needed powerful graphics processing. Some newer devices with the latest-gen Intel chips have passable integrated graphics, but there are no Chromebooks with discrete GPUs. If Steam-based gaming becomes available, Liu suggests we’ll see more powerful AMD GPUs in Chromebooks. He wouldn’t comment on Nvidia or Qualcomm’s involvement, though.
Even without a new generation of gaming-oriented Chromebooks, Steam support would vastly expand the game catalog on the platform. While it’s true there are plenty of Android games on Chrome OS, most of them were designed for a small touchscreen. A game designed for PCs would work better on a Chromebook, and there are numerous indie games and 2D experiences that should work even on modest systems.
Assuming Google follows through and makes Steam functional on Chrome OS, there’s no guarantee OEMs will start making more powerful Chromebooks. Gaming on Linux has always been a tough sell, but perhaps Google’s market power can drive these projects forward.
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