Chromebooks are the vegans of laptops. They’re lean and light machines that are designed for users with simplistic, Google-based workflows: browsing Chrome, checking Gmail, exploring YouTube, and playing Android apps from Google Play.
However, in recent years, there’s been a push to force-feed hearty, resource-intensive tasks (e.g., gaming) down ChromeOS’ throat. Laptop manufacturers have been trying to make fetch happen with so-called “gaming Chromebooks.” For example, I reviewed the world’s first gaming Chromebook — the Acer Chromebook 516 GE — earlier this year.
However, “gaming Chromebook” is a bit of a misnomer. “Chromebook optimized for cloud-gaming services” would be a more fitting name; it’s just a ChromeOS system that features the best specs for Nvidia GeForce Now and its ilk.
Now when it comes to running games natively on ChromeOS, and I’m talkin’ intensive games (not the lil’ Subway Surfer games you may like to play), Google has been working on it — and it’s been struggling.
How it all began
We first knew about Google’s ambitious plans to bring a native Steam client to Chromebooks in 2020 after an interview Android Police.
Last year, Google reiterated those plans at the Google for Games Developer Summit, adding that an alpha-quality version of Steam would be coming to Chrome OS. When the alpha version finally launched, Google announced that it could only support seven Chromebooks.
“Because many games have high performance demands, we’ve focused our efforts thus far on a set of devices where more games can run well,” Google said. The search-engine tech giant says that Steam requires at least 8GB of RAM and a Core i5 processor.
Chromebook users who tested the alpha version, including Nathan Ingraham from Engadget, reported what we expected. Chrome OS handled older, lighter games (e.g., Half-Life 2 and Portal 2) with ease, however, triple-A games are too…