Google Chromebooks could soon be surprising gaming laptops — here's how

chromebook game mode
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Chromebooks may get a new "game mode" that will make Google-powered laptops a lot more useful for gaming — which would in turn play into long-rumored plans to bring Steam to Chrome OS.

According to Chrome Unboxed, a new entry in the Chromium Gerrit hints at the possibility of a game mode toggle for Borealis — an upcoming Ubuntu-based Linux container. Specifically it looks designed to automatically activate game mode when you open or close a game. 

chrome os game mode

(Image credit: Chromium Gerrit)

The entry described game mode working to "implement logic to track window state and toggles game mode when a Borealis window is focused and enters and exits full screen.” That naturally suggests autonomy, and possibly that users won’t have the option to turn it on or off manually.

Game modes typically involve features that boost performance and limit distractions. Chrome OS would be best off doing the same, especially since Chromebooks don’t have a reputation for being the most powerful devices out there. 

Unfortunately the Chromium Gerrit doesn’t divulge any actual details. Just that there will be clear messaging when entering and leaving game mode, similar to what currently happens when using Google Stadia. It looks like it will include access to other useful tools during your gaming sessions, like messaging and screen recording.

Steam support for Chromebooks has been rumored since last year. The idea was that games would be supported by a Linux virtual machine, the aforementioned Borealis. Borealis would include a pre-installed copy of Steam and Valve’s Proton, a compatibility layer that helps Linux steam run games that were built for Windows machines.

Steam support still hasn’t arrived on Chromebooks, but the discovery of a game mode toggle suggests that we’re not too far away. Presumably game mode will have to come first, unless Google has plans to do some sort of simultaneous launch. It’s impossible to say without an actual announcement from either Google itself, or Steam developer Valve.

But for now, with almost a year since the first rumors popped up and no end in sight, we’re just going to have to be patient. And if you want to play games on a Chromebook, you’re going to have to toughen up and invest in Stadia.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.