Google Drops Surprising Chromebook News About Steam

Google made a surprising announcement during its "Google for Games" Developer Summit 2022 keynote today: Steam has arrived on Chrome OS...sort of. The launch, which we've been anticipating for months, comes in the form of an alpha release, which is only going to be made available for certain Chromebooks, at least initially.

"The Steam Alpha just launched, making this long-time PC game store available on select Chromebooks for users to try," Greg Hartell, Google's Product Director for Games, said during the company's summit keynote. The announcement comes amid Google's general push to expand gaming options on its lightweight Chrome OS laptops, not the least of which is its own Stadia cloud-based platform.

"Cloud games are more vibrant on Chromebooks than ever before," Hartell continued, pointing out that both Stadia and NVIDIA GeForce NOW have brought more than 1,400 PC games to Chrome OS machines. What can Chromebook owners expect going forward?

Steam Alpha and Gaming Overlay on Chrome OS

Chromebooks already enable owners to play Android games, though the experience may not be quite as great as what you get using a smartphone or tablet. That's slowly changing, though, thanks to the compatibility mode the company rolled out in October 2021 and the Gaming Overlay beta that'll be introduced later this year.

"Chromebooks had an incredible year in 2021," Hartell explained, stating, "We're really excited about the continued growth of Android games on Chrome OS in particular." The company says the use of Android on its Chrome operating system grew more than 50% year-over-year, and it largely has games to thank for this expansion. It helps, of course, that some Android games have been optimized for playing on Chromebooks.

Steam will no doubt help fuel these numbers, though it remains to be seen how many of the laptops support the software and whether Chromebook owners would rather use a cloud-based platform like Stadia. Google is pointing interested consumers to its Chromebook Community forums to learn more about the Steam Alpha and give it a try themselves — though, at the time of writing, the information doesn't appear to be live on the forums yet.

Beyond Steam, Google also said it'll release the public beta for its new Chrome OS Gaming Overlay later on in 2022, though only some games will support it at that time. With this, Chromebook owners will be able to play Android games "with user-driven mouse and keyboard configurations" without the titles' developers having to make changes first.

Which Chromebooks will support Steam?

Unfortunately, Google dropped the Steam Alpha news with very few details players no doubt want to know — such as, for example, which Chromebook models will support the software. Hartell mentioned x86 laptops during the keynote, plus a leak last month from 9to5Google claimed to have found some models that'll be first to bat with Steam support in publicly-posted code. 

Those models include the ASUS Chromebook CX9 and Flip CX5, the HP Pro c640 G2 Chromebook, and a trio of Acer models: the Chromebook 514, 515, and Spin 713, assuming they're units with the correct hardware configurations. Whether these models will truly get access to the Steam Alpha for Chrome OS remains to be seen. We'll keep an eye out on the Chromebook Community forums for more information when it is finally posted.