Chrome OS may one day be able to play games from Steam. In an interview with Android Police, a Chrome OS product leader said that Google is working to allow Chromebooks to run Valve’s game platform, seemingly with help from Valve. No timeline was given on when support might arrive.
It’s an intriguing but odd announcement. Google has been focused on expanding Chrome OS’s capabilities over the last few years by allowing it to run native apps from Android, so that it’s not entirely reliant on the web. Adding Steam would push that even further, opening up Chromebooks to the hundreds of games that offer support for Linux, which Chrome OS is based on.
But Chromebooks are by and large low-power devices, designed to run a web browser and not much more. It’s hard to imagine that games would run well on the vast majority of Chromebooks currently out there, although Steam does offer a wide selection of smaller indie titles that are less graphically demanding. Still, Steam support will likely be useful only to the highest-end devices right now.
Kan Liu, the Chrome OS product director who spoke with Android Police, said that more powerful Chromebooks are coming, particularly those that will feature AMD processors.
Even if its usefulness is limited, it still translates to more things you can do on Chrome OS, and that’s by no means a bad thing. As Android Police points out, casual titles and older games could run just fine on some machines. (Steam also supports streaming games from other computers. It’s possible that’s a focus here, too, though the conversation seemed to be around native gameplay.)
At the same time, it’s a little surprising to see Google prioritizing native gaming on Chrome OS — its cloud-focused operating system — when Google is also building out Stadia, a game streaming service that doesn’t require powerful local hardware. Stadia still comes with a great number of limitations, though (a small game library among them), so the two offerings don’t necessary address the exact same needs.