Despite other companies trying to challenge Microsoft’s domination of the PC gaming landscape, Windows has remained the default platform for PC gaming for many years now. Valve’s SteamOS initiative failed to gain interest from gamers and PC manufacturers, while Macs continue to lag behind the PC competition, despite Apple’s having some of the most popular gaming devices worldwide with its family of iOS devices.
If a Patently Apple report about an upcoming $5,000 gaming Mac made some headlines a couple of weeks ago, a new report from Android Police today is likely to raise even more eyebrows. According to the report, Google and Valve could be working together to bring Steam to Chromebooks, with Valve leveraging Chrome OS’ existing support for Linux apps. Valve’s digital storefront already supports Linux, and the company’s SteamOS platform is also based on Linux.
Last week in Las Vegas while at CES, I spoke with Kan Liu, Director of Product Management for Google's Chrome OS. In a wide-ranging discussion about the Chrome platform and ecosystem, Liu dropped something of a bombshell on me: the Chrome team is working—very possibly in cooperation with Valve—to bring Steam to Chromebooks.
Liu declined to provide a timeline for the project, but did confirm it would be enabled by Chrome OS's Linux compatibility. The Steam client would, presumably, run inside Linux on Chrome—a platform for which it is already available. Liu implied, though would not directly confirm, that Google was working in direct cooperation with Valve on this project.
Bringing Steam to Chromebooks could be a challenge as the majority of Chromebooks are cheap devices with slow processors and GPUs. Most Chromebook models also come with a limited amount of storage, and that wouldn’t sit well with big PC games that can sometimes reach 100GB.
As of today, the best way to play games on a Chromebook is to download Android games from the Google Play Store, or to use Google’s Stadia cloud gaming service. Bringing Steam on Chromebooks could definitely help Chrome OS gain some credibility as a "real" desktop OS that's not restricted to web apps, though Android Police noted that "it could be years before this project reaches fruition for all I know, or it could just fizzle out and never happen at all."