Chrome’s new WebGPU tech promises new era for browser games

Google Chrome on macOS
(Image credit: Shutterstock - slyellow)

Google is rolling out the first iteration of WebGPU which will allow the Chrome browser to use a computer’s graphics card to enhance web-based video games and their graphical fidelity.

The new API (Application Programming Interface) is the result of a six-year development cycle by the GPU for the Web Community Group with contributions from several tech giants like Mozilla, Apple, and Microsoft. As a successor to the current WebGL model, WebGPU is said to lessen the “JavaScript workload” for its browser as well as triple the performance of “machine learning model inferences.” The end goal is to have browser games sporting “highly-detailed scenes with many different objects” as “many modern rendering techniques” will be now possible. Pre-existing titles like those found on Javascript 3D libraries like Babylon.js will see an improvement too.

Outside of gaming, the API can be used by productivity apps to “offload computations to the GPU. Teleconferencing platforms like Google Meet can utilize the improved machine learning to run more efficiently, according to the WebGPU Explainer

WebGPU is currently available as a default setting on the beta version of Chrome 113, which is available for download on Windows, ChromeOS, and macOS. However, at least for the first two systems, you'll have to meet a few system requirements. Windows devices must support Direct3D 12 while ChromeOS devices must have the Vulkan API enabled. If you prefer to wait for a stable launch instead, Chrome 113 will officially launch with WebGPU on April 26.

For early adopters like us, Google provides a couple of resources so people can see the API in action. We tried out several games found in the Babylon.js library on both Chrome 111 and the Chrome 113 beta to see if there were any significant upgrades. Single-player titles like Temple Run 2 didn’t really have a big performance boost apart from being slightly faster. However, with Shell Shockers, a free FPS (first-person shooter) multiplayer game, we did notice faster load times and a smoother frame rate. Graphics-wise, none of the games looked any different, but keep in mind, adoption is just beginning. To see what WebGPU is graphically capable of, Babylon.js has a free tech demo on its website.

As for other browsers, Google states WebGPU support for Firefox and Safari is still “a work in progress”. Linux and Android devices are also slated to get the API later down the line. No official word for iOS release, but considering the macOS support, it’s probably only a matter of time. 

If you’re looking for another way to procrastinate, check out TechRadar’s list of the best free web browser games.

Cesar Cadenas

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.