Forget the Steam Deck – gaming Chromebooks with Steam support could be coming soon

Pixelbook Go Chromebook with Steam on screen
(Image credit: Future / Valve)

You may not think of the humble Chromebook as a gaming device, but that could change, as it looks like official support for Steam in Chrome OS is coming soon.

According to a report by Android Police, official Steam support in Chrome OS, the operating system Chromebooks use, could be coming soon. Codenamed ‘Borealis’, it seems a beta version could be included in Chrome OS 98.0.4736.0, which will be made available as an early ‘Canary’ version for testing imminently.

It also looks like Proton support will be included. This is pretty exciting, as it’s the tool Valve uses to allow Windows games to run in Linux. This is how Valve’s handheld Steam Deck console, which runs on Linux, will be able to access and play a huge library of Windows games.

With Proton support in Chrome OS (which is also based on Linux), Chromebook owners could have access to almost any Windows game in their library. It appears that Google is also including a way for people to provide feedback about how well a game runs in Proton, allowing both Google and Valve to hopefully fix any issues.

Analysis: Gaming Chromebooks?

The information unearthed by Android Police in source code for the upcoming update to Chrome OS makes it look likely that Steam support is indeed coming to Chromebooks – albeit in beta form for the time being.

This is exciting news, as we always like to see new ways to play our games. Proton support in particular is welcome, as it should mean Chromebook gamers – a market we’d have never thought really existed before now – have access to a wide range of games, not just titles that have been built for Linux.

However, there are still hardware limitations to take into account. One of the most appealing things about the best Chromebooks are that many of them are very affordable, with long battery lives. Both of these aspects are achieved by having low-powered hardware. That’s great for prolonging battery lives and keeping prices low, but it’s not very good when it comes to gaming.

So, even with Steam support, budget Chromebooks are going to struggle playing many games. However, Steam has a huge range of old games, as well as indie titles, which could run fine. There are also premium Chromebooks out there with specifications that rival the best laptops, and many of these will do a decent job at running games – with a bit of tweaking, of course.

So, while it may not magically turn your cheap Chromebook into a gaming laptop, there’s huge potential here for bringing some brilliant older and indie games to a whole new market. It should also make the wait for the delayed launch of the Steam Deck a bit easier.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. He’s personally reviewed and used most of the laptops in our best laptops guide - and since joining TechRadar in 2014, he's reviewed over 250 laptops and computing accessories personally.