“Chromebook” and “Gaming” in the same sentence?
Not long ago, the idea of gaming on a Chromebook seemed like a completely foreign concept. Their approach to computing began as a way to simplify a user’s access to and consumption of content. Because of this, they weren’t really built with gaming in mind. Their graphics cards, storage, ram and processors were all geared towards offering productivity without complexity. That is to say that they are woefully under powered for traditional PC gaming. Ironically, a few major shifts in our culture have landed Chromebooks squarely back into a game that no one ever thought they were playing.
When the Google Play Store was added to Chromebooks a few years ago, many people categorized these laptops as ‘big phones’ for their ability to play mobile games that weren’t really optimized as “sit down” experiences. Their graphics and performance were limited, they had no gamepad support, let alone mouse and keyboard support and the worst offender of all is that many of the game’s developers did not create a ‘tablet’ version so that it would fill the entire Chromebook screen. This left us with tons of titles that were solely touch enabled with big, chunky icons and text and a portrait phone view with black bars on the left and right sides.
Add to this the fact that Chromebooks intentionally can’t install Windows games due to file incompatibility, storage space constraints and more and you can clearly see why perception of Chromebook gaming has been so low. While a lot of that perception is largely due to some wanting use Chromebooks for that which they were never intended or capable, the advent of cloud gaming services like Google Stadia, Playstation Now, Nvidia Geforce Now and more and the ability to run much more complex and graphically intensive games on lower end hardware has positioned Chromebooks to be the ideal devices for premium on-the-go gaming.
Just this morning on The Keyword, Product Management Director for Chrome OS, Thomas Riedl revealed how the frequency at which Chromebook owners launched games on their devices has nearly tripled in just three months. He then showed how Google has worked extensively with their hardware and software partners to cater to those users and enhance their experience.
Premium Gaming Section
In order to help Chromebook owners find games that are optimized for their device, Google has curated a section of the Play Store for Premium Chromebook games. These titles all have landscape screen support and optimized performance and some even have the ability be played with a gamepad. The goal here was to hand pick a selection of experiences which felt native to Chromebook screens as opposed to ported over from another form factor like a phone or a tablet.
Chromebooks come with Perks
When you buy a new Chromebook, you may or may not have been told that it comes with perks! The perks page is periodically updated to give you free stuff to enhance your experience and help you discover the what’s possible with your new laptop. Lately, Google has been adding in a ton of games and in-game goodies. You should check back periodically to see what’s new. You can also access the your perks from the ‘Explore’ app which comes built into your Chromebook.
Geforce Now & Stadia
Traditionally, you would install and runs a game from your computer’s local hard drive. This not only takes a ton of space, but updates are frequently needed as well, which adds to the time you must wait before you can play. Cloud gaming changes all of that. You can now play high quality, AAA titles right inside of your Chrome browser with services like Google Stadia and Nvidia Geforce Now. There’s no need to install or download these games and they update automatically without a wait time. Stadia gives you three months of their Pro subscription for free which means you’ll be able to play more than 20 titles upon signing up and Geforce Now lets you synchronize your Steam library with just a few clicks, giving you access to most of the games you’ve already purchased there.
Works with Chromebook certified gamepads
The Works with Chromebook initiative painstakingly goes through thousands of accessories and tests them with Chromebooks and then slaps a sticker on them which tells customers that those specific items work best with their new laptop. Those customers can then be confident that they will experience little to no issue with the accessories they buy from stores like Walmart and Best Buy, for example. Today, Google announced that they’ve adopted three-game controllers into the program. Their very own Stadia controller, the Logitech F710 and the F310 wireless gamepads are all guaranteed to work great! You can pick up the F310 on Amazon for a cool $19.99 right now.
Just the Beginning
With all of these gaming-centric updates and the near future addition of a native Steam client for Chrome OS via Borealis, Google has shown that they have taken notice of users who want their Chromebooks to be useful for more than just web browsing and they’ve gone through the paces to make that possible. As our acceptance and adoption of cloud gaming and games in the form of apps instead of big, bulky software increases, as both already have, Chromebooks will no longer be known as a ‘web browser in a box’ or a ‘laptop for kids’ or a ‘Facebook machine’ as some would say, but rather they will be seen as ‘the laptops which changed with us’. Figuratively speaking, they’re essentially living, breathing devices and that’s largely because they’re driven by software as a priority over just hardware and the gamer in me couldn’t be happier.