The Chrome team is currently working to add official Steam compatibility to Chrome OS,
which could pave the way for gaming-focused Chromebooks with dedicated GPUs.
Valve supports gaming using Steam on Windows, macOS, and Linux, but it could soon
add a fourth operating system to that list. Google wants Steam running on Chrome OS.
As Android Police reports, during CES last week Kan Liu, Senior Director of Product
Management for Chrome OS, admitted that the Chrome development team is working
to bring Valve's Steam client to Chrome OS. In so doing, it would unlock thousands
of games to play on Chromebooks.
It's been suggested that Google is actually working in co-operation with Valve on this
project, but Liu wouldn't confirm they are. What he did confirm was that Steam would
work using Chrome OS's Linux compatibility mode, so while it worked through Chrome
OS it would actually be relying on Linux to function.
While official support for Steam on Chrome OS is great news for Valve and anyone who
wants to game on a cheap Chromebook, there are some serious limitations right now due
to the hardware being used. The majority of Chromebooks don't pack much performance,
memory, or storage, and certainly don't have a dedicated GPU. Very old games should run
fine, but anything released over the past several years would likely struggle or not run at all.
The flip-side to that problem is the potential for gaming Chromebooks to appear. Vendors
could market them as a safe way to surf the internet and do some work, while also being the
perfect entertainment device. The price of these Chromebooks would be considerably higher
though, assuming they'd need a faster CPU, dedicated GPU, and a lot more on-board storage.