The time might finally be coming where Steam games being played on Chromebooks is a standard, included feature of ChromeOS. After years in development at this point, it’s an exciting proposition that would see a bunch of different Chromebook models included in the Steam game revolution set to be unleashed on the market.
In the commit referenced above, we’re seeing the Chrome flag that blocks the Chrome OS Stable Channel from launching Steam being removed. As of this morning, that means we should start seeing the option to allow Steam (on supported devices, of course) right out of the box with only a feature flag needed in the Stable Channel.
As it stands, Steam can be enabled in the Beta Channel Now via a flag, but there’s no option for this to happen in the Stable Channel. Now, before you go trying to launch Steam on your Chromebook right away, realize that this commit was just merged this morning, so it may take a version or two before this actually trickles down to the Stable Channel of ChromeOS. While I’d love to see next week’s update to ChromeOS 114 carry this change, I don’t know that we’ll see it so soon.
Either way, when it does roll out, all channels of ChromeOS will be able to turn on the flag that enables Steam on Chromebooks. And that should broaden the testing bed quite a bit as many users simply don’t want to venture to the Beta or Developer Channels to try out new features.
I’d wager we’ll still see Steam in a beta state and behind a flag for the next few months, though recent testing is showing some real improvements. Where I couldn’t even consider playing any of the games I’d like to use Steam for a few weeks back, trying them out today was not a bad experience.
I loaded up Super Hot and CS:GO and had playable sessions in both. For both of these examples, the games performed far better after I went to the settings and turned things down to 1080p. The Acer Chrombook 516GE has a QHD screen and turning some of those extra pixels down really did help the performance. With medium/high settings, CS:GO was completely playable and Super Hot was basically perfect.
Don’t forget GeForce NOW
It does need to be said that I played both titles in GeForce NOW right after my tests and the experience there was simply better. The graphics were better, framerates were much higher, and with no discernable lag happening now with GeForce NOW, I have a hard time figuring out why I’d work too hard to get Steam running well on this Chromebook.
I know having your games locally stored is a nice touch versus needing an internet connection to play, but for someone like me who plays very casually, I tend to play online, multiplayer games most of the time. And if I need the internet connection to play, I might as well use that connection to stream games at a higher quality and with better framerates, right?
Either way you play, it looks like more options are on the way if you are a Chromebook user. With Steam games being readied for even some lower-end devices, the arrival of this form of gaming on Chromebooks could be a great way for users to play some less-intense games on the go when internet connectivity isn’t an option. And it’s coming soon to a Chromebook in the Stable Channel near you soon.