Gaming isn't the first word that comes to mind when I say Chromebooks. While support for Android apps has brought quite a few more games to the platform, they aren't always optimized for the hardware and are typically more casual experiences.
Back in January, the Director of Product Management for Chrome OS, Kan Liu, indicated that Steam support may be coming to Chromebooks, and now the team at 9to5Google has uncovered evidence of how exactly Google is implementing this in cooperation with Valve (via SlashGear).
We knew the Steam compatibility was going to rely on the support for running Linux apps on Chrome OS, but according to code changes in Chromium open-source, the key is a new project with the codename "Borealis." This is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu that will apparently run inside Chrome OS just as Crostini (which is based on Debian Linux) does now.
The reason for using it appears to be to maximize compatibility with Steam on Linux, which Valve has already put considerable work into; Ubuntu is the service's preferred Linux distribution.
Of course, the next question is which Chromebooks will offer support for Steam? Fortunately, the code seems to contain that answer as well. Another code change identified the Steam support testing as "hatch-Borealis," which is the combination of the codename for Intel 10th Gen processors with the Ubuntu distribution layer.
Now, there aren't a lot of Chromebooks with Intel 10th Gen processors just yet (we've reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook and the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook) but more should arrive before the end of the year.
It will be interesting to see if this project finally reaches a public beta stage soon and whether gaming on Chromebooks is something that users actually want. With premium Chromebooks seemingly carving out an admittedly small place in the market now, it at least seems plausible compared to just a year or two ago when Google was alone in producing high-end Chromebooks.
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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.