The Steam Linux Alpha app for Chrome OS is not ready for gamers just yet

By - Dan Millward

Published -

I totally appreciate Steam Linux Alpha is just that. It’s a work in progress, which means it will take some time before games start running on this platform. All that being said, I was a little underwhelmed with the games that work.

I hate being negative about Chrome OS because I love the platform so much. I’ve owned so many Chromebooks over the years and I’m never away from my Chromebox that I use on a daily basis. When it comes to playing games on Chrome OS, I was never really convinced, but that changed with the launch of Nvidia GeForce Now.

Nvidia GeForce Now makes it possible to play your favourite PC games on a Chromebook. I’ve spent many hours playing Anno 1800, Cities Skylines, Prison Architect and many more. I play these using GeForce Now on my Chromebox, so I can get the big-screen experience when gaming. To take full advantage of GeForce now you do need a good internet connection. If you don’t have a good internet connection you’ll most likely want to play games locally on your Chromebook.

Playing games locally with Steam

Before the launch of the Steam Linux Alpha app, I installed Steam on my Chromebox by installing a .deb file. This worked fine, but it did take a while to get it installed, so the process might frustrate some people.

I tried to install Cities Skylines and it did not work. The game installed all ok, but when it come to loading a map it stuttered and crashed. This is fair enough because this game struggles to load even on my Microsoft Windows computer. It works absolutely fine when playing it on my Chromebox with Nvidia GeForce Now.

I tried installing Prison Architect, which is less demanding as the graphics are pretty basic. Think of Southpark, and that’s the type of graphics I’m referring to. I was able to play Prison Architect on my Chromebox using Steam. It wasn’t perfect with a few issues around how the mouse worked. Again, it worked perfectly fine on GeForce Now.

Steam Linux Alpha App

When I installed the Steam Linux Alpha App on my Asus Chromebook CX5 I wasn’t expecting too much at this time. After all, we’ve got to appreciate it has only just been released. I was expecting it to at least play games like Prison Architect because it’s available as a Linux game.

Prison Architect game Steam on Asus CX5 Chromebook
Prison architect crashed shortly after loading

After the game was downloaded and installed on my Chromebook. I was pretty shocked to see that the game crashed shortly after loading a new map. Considering I was able to play this game when I installed Steam through the deb method. You would at least expect the same or even better experience on Steam Linux Alpha.

I was able to install Civilization using the Steam Linux Alpha app, and that worked just fine. Again, it’s a game available for Linux, so I would expect it to work. However, this was the only game that I’ve managed to install that actually worked. Other games specifically available for Linux such as Prison Architect and Transport Fever installed, but both crashed when the game was loaded.

Steam games for Windows using Proton

I tried to install a few games that are only available for Microsoft Windows. I have a few of these that I’ve purchased via Steam. You have to change the settings to install these games, and you can find out how in the link above. Once you’ve changed the settings you can install Microsoft Windows games.

I wasn’t expecting to be able to play the latest MS Windows games. Therefore, I tried to install older games such as Anno 1404 and GTA Vice City. Both of these games installed just fine, but when I tried to play them I’d just get a black screen but could hear the audio.

Summary

At the moment the Steam Linux Alpha app has some way to go. The fact I could not play MS Games isn’t a big issue at this stage. However, I was a little shocked that the games I could play when installing Steam with a .deb file worked, but the same games did not work using the app.

So if you’re considering buying one of the very limited numbers of Chromebooks that can support Steam Linux Alpha. You need to be prepared that you’ll most likely come up against these problems.

Hopefully, in a year from now, things will be very different. I hope this will be the case because there are times when I’d prefer to play a game locally rather than having to stream. For now though, I’ll be sticking with Nvidia GeForce Now to play games on my Chromebox. The fact is, it works, and it works extremely well.

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