Updated: Mar 25
It pays to pay close attention. In remarks made at the Google for Games Developers Summit yesterday (15 March 2022), Greg Hartell, Google’s Product Director for Games, mentioned that the popular game distribution service Steam is now available on select Chromebook models. However, a full rollout will not happen soon as Steam is being alpha tested under this limited release.
The Verge reports that this announcement has been a long time coming for Google and Steam’s developer Valve. The word that Steam will be available for Chromebook laptops has been going around since January 2020. This was when Kan Liu, Director of Project Management for ChromeOS, told Android Police at CES that the Chrome team was working to make the service’s platform compatible with the Linux-based operating system. However, he did not give any timeline for when it would happen.
Before Hartell's recent announcement, however, there were signs of this emerging development under what has since been called the Borealis project. Last month, 9to5Google leaked a list of Chromebook models that would be part of the Steam alpha test. Most of these include models from Acer and Asus, and as of now, the alpha test requires certain computer specs. These include having the 11th gen Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and at least 7GB of RAM. The site says that this rules out all but the higher-end models, but they expect the list to expand as testing proceeds.
Why is this development important? An earlier report from The Verge says that this is in line with Google’s plans for gaming on Chromebooks. For some time now, Google has worked on making Android game apps available on ChromeOS, thus freeing users from the need to constantly be on the web to play games. Since ChromeOS is based on Linux, having Steam available on Chromebooks will allow users to download and play the many games developed for that family of operating systems.
Steam was first launched by game development company Valve in 2003 as a way for users to receive automatic updates for their games, including popular ones such as Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike. It was a result of Valve acquiring digital distribution rights for their games after a new contract with Sierra Studios, Counter-Strike’s original developer.
Since Steam’s launch, third-party developers have used it to release games and game updates, making it a must-have for the serious gamer. Steam has also grown to provide additional services, including cloud storage, in-game voice and chat functionality and support for most operating systems. It is the biggest service of its kind, carrying more than 34,000 games and having over 95 million active monthly users.
The Chromebook line of laptops is an effort by Google and laptop manufacturers to build lightweight, powerful and affordable devices running the tech company’s proprietary ChromeOS system. The first Chromebooks shipped in June 2011. In 2020, Chromebooks outsold Apple Macs for the first time, largely by taking market share from Windows-based devices. The ChromeOS system originally enabled users to rely on web-based services on the eponymous web browser such as Google Docs and Sheets. It has since been able to work with Android apps and Linux software.
Google announced that the popular game distribution service Steam will be available on select models of the Chromebook line of laptops.
Steam will be initially available for alpha testing on select high-end models from manufacturers such as ASUS, Acer and HP.
This development is part of Google’s overall strategy to encourage the use of Chromebooks for gaming, and Steam’s inventory of Linux-compatible games will be a big boost for this effort.