Google is close to bringing Steam compatibility to more Chromebooks

Xbox Controller in front of Steam on Acer Chromebook Spin 713 in tent mode
(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • A new ChromeOS commit seems to confirm that native Steam gaming will soon arrive on more Chromebooks.
  • Once available, those who own Intel Core i3 or Ryzen 3-powered Chromebooks should be able to install and play Steam.
  • This comes shortly after Google's commitment to providing support for cloud gaming-focused Chromebooks.

Earlier today, Google and a few of the most popular Chromebook makers announced some major changes coming to the platform. For the first time ever, the market will feature Chromebooks that were designed specifically with gaming in mind. This means RGB keyboards, displays with a 120Hz refresh rate, and a slew of new Chromebook-compatible gaming peripherals. And while the trio of new Chromebooks is focused on cloud gaming, Google could have another surprise up its sleeve.

When Google first unveiled its Steam Alpha program, the number of compatible Chromebooks was understandably limited. Intel's 11th Gen processor with Iris Xe onboard graphics was just becoming available. Now, Intel 12th Gen chips are available, with even more processing and graphical power. The program has been limited to the best Chromebooks with either a Core i5 or Core i7 SoC, leaving lower-end Core i3 devices out of the fun.

According to a new ChromeOS commit spotted by 9to5Google, that all could change in the coming months. The commit specifically states "Allow Borealis to run on i3/r3 without a token," with i3 being Intel's entry-level processor and r3 being AMD's Ryzen 3 series. 

Borealis expansion for i3 and r3 chips

(Image credit: Chromium Gerrit)

9to5Google also points out that "the code is still only intended to support 11th Gen or greater Intel chips." Considering the improvements in the onboard graphical performance over the 11th and 12th Gen Intel chips, it doesn't really come as too much of a surprise. And really, you'll likely be better suited to enjoy cloud gaming from NVIDIA's GeForce NOW or Xbox Cloud Gaming instead. 

Google had to implement certain limitations with bringing native Steam to ChromeOS. Simply put, even some of the lesser-intensive games will likely result in a subpar experience, something that Google is trying to avoid here. Because the code commit was just made, it hasn't yet made its way into ChromeOS. We expect that to change in the coming weeks, whenever the next ChromeOS Dev Channel build begins rolling out to users.

Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks, tablets, and wearables

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.