Chromebook Gaming Around The Corner As Steam Adds Support For Windows Games On Linux

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Just yesterday, Gabriel posted an article on 3 Chromebook devices in development with AMD chipsets and how this whole segment of devices is progressing. The conversation around these future AMD-powered devices always turns into a fairly predictable question: What good is more GPU support on a Chromebook?

It turns out the stars are lining up so GPU support may be a key factor in future Chromebooks; more specifically for gamers.

Three very important things are happening at the same time right now that are laying the groundwork for gaming on Chromebooks to become a legitimate and enjoyable activity. Let’s talk about them.

Linux apps on Chromebooks GPU support
We’ve talked about this first part, but it is perhaps the most crucial part of the overall puzzle. GPU support does not currently work at all on Linux apps installed on Chromebooks. Based on what we currently know, we should see the Switch flip in the fourth quarter of 2018, but we don’t have a firm date set at this point. Once we see the GPU acceleration given to Linux apps, games and graphics-heavy apps will perform much, much better.

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Devices with better GPUs to come
As Gabriel pointed out both yesterday and in another post regarding the Kabylake G processor, Chromebooks with discrete graphics cards will end up being a thing. If we were just talking about web apps and Android, I see that this is not really necessary.

However, with GPU acceleration for Linux applications, these dedicated GPUs can serve a very real and very important purpose for those looking to do more with their Chromebooks.

Steam Play allows Linux machines to run Windows games
The last part of the equation comes from Steam’s announcement this week that Windows games will now be playable on Linux devices.

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The way they are successful is a little over my head, but interesting nonetheless. You can read everything here right from Steam. From what I understand, the updated Steam Play service uses a modified version of WINE (a popular Windows emulator) called Proton which allows Linux users to run Windows games only directly on their Linux machines.

In the past, titles released on Linux were essentially a bonus, as Windows is easily the largest player base most developers are targeting. With this new capability, Steam will make it easy for Linux users to install, run, and play Windows titles. The whole effort is in beta and has a list of 28 already approved games for you to try, but you are free to try any game you want.

I tried all of this today on my Pixelbook by installing Crouton and installing a game from Steam that is on the media list. All I had to do was log into Steam, go to basic settings, and sign up for the new beta. After a restart, the games that didn’t allow me to install them were now ready to download. Running the games was hit or miss, but we’ll give it some time.

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In the beta program, you can even choose to try out games that are not currently on the supported list. Some will work and some won’t, but we have to remember that all of this is still in beta for now. Steam says it fully intends for Proton to support most Windows titles as the service exits beta status.

If you want to try all of this on your Crouton installation or via Crostini, you can go here for the official Steam instructions. If you are not sure what Crostini or Crouton are I would advise you to sit down for now. The hope is that all of this will be ready for general use in the next few months, when we will be releasing a guide on how to get it all working without Developer Mode and Crouton.

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All together

If we put all of these pieces together, you can see a very real and very clear path to great games on Chromebooks and Chromeboxes in the future. Using Crostini to launch your favorite previously Windows-exclusive games on a device with a dedicated GPU could become a reality within the next 6 months.

Additionally, GPU support for video editors, photo editors, and graphics editing apps will open up a whole new use case for Chromebooks. I am ready for this new area of ​​development! And you?


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