Google says an alpha version of Steam is finally available for Chrome OS users with specific machines to test, as long as they’re willing to put a beta operating system on their computer. The announcement comes after the company prematurely said Valve’s PC games store was available last week before changing its tune to say it would be “coming soon”. While Google’s John Maletis, a VP of Chrome OS, calls it “early days” for the software, it’s exciting that we’ll finally get a glimpse of what the Steam experience on Chromebooks will be like.
Google says the alpha will only be available on “a small set of recent Chromebooks” as it focuses on “devices where more games can run well.” (It’s also limited to certain configurations of those computers — more on that in a second.) According to a company blog post, those Chromebooks are:
There are a few other additional caveats worth noting: Google only opens it for configurations of these Chromebooks that have Intel XE graphics, an 11th-gen i5 or i7 processor, and at least 8GB of RAM. The company also notes that if a game requires 6GB of RAM, it may not run very well on a laptop with 8GB of RAM. There are also apparently “performance and scaling” issues with displays that run at resolutions above 1080p, which Google is working to fix.
The installation process also reflects the initial state of the software — according to a post from Google, it involves switching your computer to the Dev channel version of Chrome OS, setting a flag, and entering a terminal command. After going through all of that, though, you should be ready to give Steam and its accompanying games a try (Google has a list of those it recommends trying, some of which have some caveats). Google says Steam on Chrome OS will “usually run the Linux version of a game,” but it also says Proton, a compatibility layer for running Windows games, is also supported.
It’s a welcome surprise, though it makes sense considering how much effort Valve put into the Linux gaming experience in an effort to make its Steam Deck console as capable as possible. Maletis even cites “Valve’s deep investment in the Linux ecosystem” when talking about how Google worked with the company to get Steam running on Chrome OS.
Steam has been a long time coming to Chromebooks – Google announced it in January 2020 and didn’t say much else about it after that until last week. And given how many warnings Google is giving people about the alpha – it says “anything can break” and that “you’ll encounter crashes, performance regressions, and bugs never seen before” while doing it testing – it might be a while before it’s a good idea to put it on your primary Chromebook. Still, it’s nice to hear that it’s finally time to run it on real hardware, after all the waiting and rumors.