Unity 3D is one of the most popular game development engines in the world. Right next to Unreal Engine and smaller tool kits like Godot, it’s directly responsible for some of the most popular video games in the world. Most games you’ll find on the Google Play Store were created with Unity, but up until now, these titles are mostly just built for phones. Even with the year-over-year monthly usage of Android apps and games on Chrome OS tripling, Chromebooks still get the short end of the stick when it comes to these experiences. I discussed this at length earlier today when we spoke about the ‘Inputs matter for Chrome OS’ session held at Google I/O yesterday.
It’s clear that Google wants Android apps and games to suck less on Chromebooks. Over the past year, it’s has enabled ARM games to run on Chrome OS with something called Houdini and continues to invest heavily in Android gaming performance improvements. You see, most Android phones are built on ARM CPUs, so most games are built to follow suit since the Play Store and its contents always only existed for this type of hardware. However, while Chromebooks have many ARM devices available on the market, there are also tons of x86 devices as well. In fact, in August, the Play Store will stop serving 32-bit apps to devices that are capable of handling their 64-bit versions to help improve things.
Starting today with the alpha release of Unity 2021.2.0a14, any developer can begin building for ChromeOS.
Additionally, by the end of 2021, the same features and toolset found in Unity’s Android environment will be available for Chrome OS.ChromeOS.dev
All of this and more is a part of Google’s master plan to unify its operating systems as far as gaming experiences go. Now, a new partnership between Unity and Chrome OS will now allow developers to enable direct Chromebook support in just a few clicks. Doing so only requires a few extra lines of code and does not increase the download size for the user thanks to Google’s app bundle technology. This is because upon installing the game, an ARM Chromebook will only receive ARM files, and an x86 Chromebook will only receive x86 files – clever!
This means that more games will eventually support Chromebooks out of the box, though developers will still need to be mindful of input options and making the experience feel native on Chrome OS devices. Unity support for Chrome OS does fix some of this automatically, such as mouse, keyboard, and window issues, so that developers won’t have to worry about if scrolling the mouse or resizing the window will cause instability. Basically, it provides a much better template for getting started with developing games that feel native to Chromebooks!
Moving forward, Google and Unity will continue to work together to improve the stability and performance of Unity’s 2021 Chrome OS support. With this, Google hopes to see new, popular titles (and indies too!) come to desktop and laptop Chrome OS devices! Gaming on Chromebooks is about to reach a whole new level, but I don’t anticipate this will happen quickly. Eventually, I hope to see Unreal Engine support as well.