This is a case of the title saying it all. I do want to take a second and explain why I think it is a big deal, but there are no spoilers here. I’m making an open plea to game developers on Android to please, please, please start making games where full keyboard and mouse input is an option.
We’ve talked a few months ago about the coming change that exists inside Android Oreo that gives developers a much simpler, clearer path to enabling keyboard and mouse controls into their apps. We’ve also talked about the fact that features such as these are not dependent on the Android version when we are talking about Chromebooks. The Chrome OS team is free to pull incoming Android features whenever they see fit instead of waiting on a yearly Android release.
Specifically, things like keyboard support can make it onto Chromebooks without the need for Android 8.0 on those same Chromebooks.
With all that said, to this point, I’ve not had luck finding games that take advantage of this new input ability. I’ve searched and installed many games, but I’ve not found anything yet.
There are certain productivity apps that seem to be really leveraging all this, but games are pretty nascent for the time being. Pull up an app like Adobe Lightroom or Microsoft Office, you’ll note that buttons like Tab and arrows work like you’d expect. It’s a start.
Gaming Could Be Huge
There are two points I want to make here that are completely disconnected, but prove the fertile ground we have with Android on Chromebooks.
Modern Combat 5 in the Windows Store
For reasons I’d rather not delve into at length, I spent a few days operating from the Microsoft Surface Pro last week. In my time, I did install Modern Combat 5 from their app store. It ran quite well, as expected, but came with something that set it apart from any other time I’ve played on any other platform: keyboard and mouse support.
Now, this isn’t unexpected since it is being installed on a Windows machine, but it was pretty amazing. A few years ago (the last time I had a Windows machine to mess around on) when I installed it, touch controls were the only option.
I’m unsure when they made the addition, but out of the box the game assumed I wanted to use the keyboard and mouse. And it. Was. Awesome.
Sure, MC5 isn’t up to par with what most heavy gamers are playing on PCs, but it is a great game with a huge community that never lacks for players. At any hour, any time, I can load up MC5 and get in a room for a few rounds of multiplayer fun.
I’ve simply never been as good at it as I want to be. Keyboard and mouse support makes first-person shooters so much better. Better than a controller and MUCH better than the standard touchscreen interface, a keyboard and mouse simply offer the play experience FPS were made for.
Since this feels like a port of the EXACT same game we have on Android, I can’t imagine adding keyboard support would be that difficult for Chromebooks. Sure, the audience isn’t as large, but it is growing and will continue to do so.
I don’t think it is a matter of if, but a matter of when game developers will eventually add keyboard and mouse support.
Doom on Nintendo Switch
Second, I just purchased Doom for the Nintendo Switch. While it isn’t a 1:1 port, it is an impressive developmental feat. The game looks great and plays like a dream. What little time I’ve had with it so far has left me thinking one thing over and over:
“This is the same processor we see in high-end Android devices. What is going to be possible in the next few years?”
Think about it. Games like Mario Oddysey, Zelda Breath of the Wild, Doom, Mario Kart 8, and Splatoon 2 have fantastic graphics, gameplay, and environments. Sure, they aren’t the most photo-realistic games I’ve ever seen and I’m not a huge gamer, but they are beautiful and well-crafted games that run at 60 frames per second on the same hardware in many people’s phones.
I know, I know, they’re Nintendo, they have only one platform to worry about, and every resource they have is dedicated to gaming. But game makers like Gameloft are completely focused on games, too, so I have to imagine that the same types of experiences are possible down the road. Sure, there are difficulties because of the wide array of devices out there, but games like Modern Combat are already pretty good on capable hardware, so the future looks quite good.
Chromebooks As Gaming Machines
While we’ll never see a day when Chromebooks compete with PC gaming rigs, I think the day could come relatively quickly that we see gaming on Chromebooks go to another level. There are tons of great games that exist on Android already and many of those titles would substantially benefit from keyboard and mouse input.
As they eventually gain that support, more people will leverage Chromebooks to play them, and the market for better games will simply grow.
For the couple days I was able to play Modern Combat 5 on the Surface with the keyboard and mouse, I was in a sort of nerd heaven. I love the game and have a lot of time invested in it, but always know I’d enjoy it more with the right input devices. Playing it that way was just as sweet as I expected, but dealing with Windows was just as painful, too.
Imagine as time goes forward and developers begin to recognize the potential of Android on Chromebooks. Think about how much more enjoyable games could be on this form factor. To see this future come about, we just need games to leverage the input methods inherent to Chromebooks and thus increasingly inherent to Android. Like it or not, Chromebooks are the next emerging market for Android, and this step could be instrumental in seeing substantial growth in the gaming segment of the Play Store.
Maybe you don’t think of a Chromebook when you think about Android gaming. But maybe, in the relatively-near future, you will.