It appears we have more indicators that Google is getting serious about gaming on Chrome OS. At the moment, if you want to play PC games on a Chromebook locally. You can try installing your favourite games on Steam, but you may find the game doesn’t play too well or not at all.
You do of course have Android and Linux games you can play, and these work just fine on Chromebooks and Chromeboxes. However, if you’re into serious PC gaming you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to playing games locally.
Recently 9 to 5 Google has spotted some new codenames, which lean towards Google’s intention of bringing true gaming to the Chromebook. This is in relation to bringing RGB keyboards to Chrome OS. Now I know what you may be thinking, oh wow, big deal, and I tend to agree. However, true gamers love highlighted keyboards, so it makes sense the code suggests Google is looking to impress true gamers.
Gaming currently on a Chromebook
When I originally started this blog in 2018 I believed we’d never see serious gaming on a Chromebook. This was because I knew to play PC games on my Windows PC I needed to spend at least £1,3000/$1,300. The reason for this is that a gaming PC needs to offer more than just the standard processor.
To play PC games with intense graphics you need a super quick processor, loads of RAM, and most importantly a dedicated Graphics card. When you start looking at buying a computer with a dedicated Graphics Processor Unit (GPU). You immediately bump up the price. Even today, the most expensive Chromebook does not come with a dedicated graphics card.
However, I was proven wrong about PC gaming on a Chromebook when Nvidia made it possible to play PC games on Chrome OS. This service allows you to play PC games, which are streamed directly to your computer. This means you don’t need a lot of processing power locally because it is done on Nvidia servers. What you do need is a quick and reliable internet connection.
I’ve played some of my favourite games on my Chromebox using Nvidia GeForce Now. The service is great and the games play really well. That being said, I do have my Chromebox connected via ethernet and my internet connection is pretty quick. Although it works great, my Chromebox isn’t doing much of the work, so I’m not playing these games locally. They are being streamed.
Playing games locally on your Chromebook
The news that has been floating around for a couple of years now is about playing games locally on your Chromebook. To make this possible Google teamed up with Steam to work on a Linux App. You’ll notice the article I’ve just highlighted above I posted back in January 2021 and we’re now in January 2022. So you may be asking the question; what is the delay?
The thing is, it isn’t an easy task to get PC games to play locally on your Chrome OS computer. Chrome OS has been designed with security in mind. This means many apps are restricted in the software and hardware they can interact with. This makes it much harder for Steam to create a Linux App that works with Chrome OS without coming across limitations.
Also, as far as I’m concerned another big reason for this delay is because Steam is working on their Steam deck. A handheld gaming device that will let you play PC games without any issues. The important thing about the Steam deck is that it runs on a Linux operating system. Therefore, if Steam gets PC games to work seamlessly for their Steam Deck. Then it should make it easier to do the same thing for Chrome OS.
Steam App for Chrome OS
The good news about the Steam deck project is that Valve has had to work hard at getting games made for Microsoft to work on Linux. They believe they’ve got to a point where most Windows games can now run on Linux. From what I’ve read about this it does appear this part of the puzzle has been resolved.
The next part of the puzzle is to get the Linux Steam App to work with Chrome OS seamlessly. When they’ve managed to do this you should in theory be able to play PC games locally on your Chromebook.
Once all of that is done we will then need to deal with the situation that current Chromebooks are not up for the job. At the beginning of this article I mentioned to play true PC games locally you need a dedicated graphics card. That hasn’t changed. Therefore, we’ll need to see a new type of Chromebook with a dedicated graphics card or a processor with an integrated graphics card that has been specifically designed with gaming in mind.
I do hope this is the year that we’ll see Steam finally get their Linux app working for Chrome OS. Don’t get me wrong, it already works, but I can assure you at the moment you’ll not be able to play many games without running into problems.
These problems are to do with the two things I’ve already mentioned. One, the integration between the Linux App and Chrome OS isn’t complete just yet. Secondly, your current Chromebook isn’t likely going to be able to take advantage of gaming locally.
Once the Steam app is ready. You’ll have to start thinking about upgrading your Chromebook if you want to play the latest games locally. There is no need to rush out to buy one just yet though. First, we need the manufacturers to release a Chromebook capable of truly local gaming. At the moment, there isn’t any.