The other day I glanced over and there sat my 7 year old son playing a silly game called Henry Stickman on one of my Windows 11 laptops. He was having a blast and I clearly remember a time about a year and a half ago where he was begging me to get a Windows laptop simply to play this game he’d watched other kids enjoy on YouTube. It’s never been available on any of the streaming services, so playing on his Chromebook was never an option. But the year-long obsession I’ve had with building out a golf simulator ended up landing us an extra mid-range Windows PC in the house, and now he has a way to play this little game he’s been after for so long via Steam on Windows.
This game will be perfect on Chrome OS
What if he could just run this on a Chromebook? Actually, he’ll soon be able to thanks to Steam gaming on Chrome OS. Games like Henry Stickman are exactly the types of titles that Steam on ChromeOS will excel at, though 3D adventure games and first-person shooters are definitely workable as well. There will come a time when we’ll have Chromebooks with discrete graphics cards and more-powerful integrated GPUs (hello, 12th-gen Intel Alder Lake), but all that horsepower isn’t really necessary for a lot of games in the vast Steam library.
For now, Google is keeping Steam for 11th and 12th-gen Intel devices that come with the more-capable Iris Xe graphics, but I’m hopeful that it will open up over time. As long as a quick heads-up is given to users with less-capable Chromebooks, they could get Steam up and running on an affordable device and play lots of less-demanding games right away on their Chromebook.
Losing a generation
Many may wonder why Google is putting so much effort into different avenues for gaming on Chromebooks. After all, aren’t Chromebooks meant to be simple, cloud-first machines that are good at getting the basics done? Sure, but don’t discount the importance of keeping the attention of the younger generation.
Chromebooks are all over schools, and that means tons of young students are already well-versed Chromebook users. But for kids like my son, they also fully understand the inherent drawbacks of a simple, cloud-centered computing approach, even if they can’t verbalize it. And one of those drawbacks is the inability for Chromebooks to play the games these kids want to play. If the generation of potential Chromebook users in school right now grow up understanding that Chromebooks are too limited for their daily use, they’ll take that understanding into their adult lives and essentially grow out of ChromeOS as they get out of school.
Thankfully, Google is addressing the missing pieces of the ChromeOS software ecosystem as we speak to actively avoid that outcome. As Android games continue growing in their support of larger screens, game streaming continues to evolve and grow, and Steam games on ChromeOS mature, there will be a ton of options available to Chromebook users looking for games in the near future.
The same can be said of PWAs, creative apps for drawing, photo editing and video creation as well. The OS that was once “just a browser” will soon be home to so many ways of getting so many things done, it is hard to fathom at this point. There’s still work to do, yet, but don’t miss the bigger picture. Steam on ChromeOS (like all the other additions we already have or that are on the way) is part of a bigger plan to give current and future users the tools they need right when they need them. Gaming is a big part of that, and I’m glad to see it taking shape the way it is.