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Google and PC laptop makers are launching a new effort to sell Chromebooks that can run a wide selection of triple-A games thanks to cloud-gaming technology.
This month, three new cloud-gaming Chromebooks are hitting the market: The Acer Chromebook 516 GE, Asus Chromebook Vibe CX55 Flip and Lenovo Ideapad Gaming Chromebook. They will be able to start some pretty good games with a single click, said John Maletis, vice president for ChromeOS product, engineering and user experience at Google, in a press briefing.
Maletis said the companies involved have been working on the project for over two years. They came up with laptops that cost $400, or about as much as a modern game console.
“So two years ago, we set out to make the best possible gaming experience and make it accessible to more and more people,” Maletis said. “We wanted to reduce the time that was required to play these incredible games, and drastically lower the cost of admission without sacrificing on performance.”
He added, “It’s a project that involves several different players across the laptop ecosystem, from chipset manufacturers to the operating system, Chrome OS, up through app developers, through peripheral manufacturers, and as well as infrastructure providers. We set out on a vision to deliver an industry first. And we’re really excited to unveil it to you today.”
All run the ChromeOS and they come with gaming-centric features including 120hz-plus refresh rates, high-resolution displays (up to 1600p), gaming keyboards, fast WiFi 6/6E connectivity and immersive audio. Models are available for order starting this month.
The popular cloud-gaming services — with the notable exception of Google Stadia, which is shutting down early next year — will enable players to play high-end games on relatively low-end laptops. Maletis said that, despite the Stadia decision, Google is committed to running games on the ChromeOS and Chromebooks, as evidenced by the latest announcement.
“Many of you saw the news from a couple of weeks ago regarding Google’s decision to shut down Stadia, which was our cloud gaming platform,” Maletis said. “I really wish that they could have made it. But I just want to stress it from the beginning of this program. Again, going back two years, we had a very principled approach. And we said we want to be cloud gaming agnostic. We want to show up where our users are showing up and playing their games. We don’t want to pin them into any particular service.”
In the past, Chromebooks have not had high-end specs to run games with decent 3D graphics. A lot of people use the laptops for productivity (work, school, documents, presentations and spreadsheets) or
online streaming (movies, television and music videos). But that’s changing.
The cloud-gaming services Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass are supporting Chromebooks. To take advantage of the 120Hz+ high-resolution displays on the new cloud gaming Chromebooks, Google has worked with Nvidia to bring support for GeForce Now’s highest tier to these devices for 120 FPS and up to 1600p resolution. The Chromebooks will access games streamed via Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics cards in the cloud-connected datacenters.
That’s the best hardware available in the Nvidia GeForce Now cloud. And it enables games on Chromebooks to run gameplay features like ray tracing, which simulates how light behaves in the real world to make visuals hyper-realistic.
Andrew Fear, director of product management for GeForce Now at Nvidia, said he is a “wannabe gamer” who has run out of time for playing on PC gaming rigs and so the cloud gaming solution appeals to him. He noted the datacenters can stream games in more than 100 countries now and more than 22 million players have tried it over a decade. Kids can use the devices to do their homework as well as play high-end games without the price of high-end hardware.
“We’re going to stream up to 1600p at 120 frames per second,” Fear said. “Last week, we were measuring latency on these devices with a good internet connection. And the latency was under 60 milliseconds for some of the most popular games. So you will feel like you’re playing on a local gaming PC, and in fact, it’s going to be faster than a lot people’s local gaming PCs.”
Google also worked with Microsoft so users will also be able to access Xbox Cloud Gaming with official Chromebook support via an installable progressive web on Xbox.com/play. Microsoft will also bring Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) to Chromebook through an installable web app.
Xbox brings a library of hundreds of games including Forza Horizon 5, Grounded and Microsoft Flight Simulator, accessible through an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
The GeForce Now app will come preinstalled on gaming Chromebooks, so getting to your favorite game will be even easier.
Google is making it easier for gamers to find games and start playing them in an instant. From the launcher, users can search for a game, and it will bring up where the game is available, and one click will start the game on the platform of choice. At launch, this search functionality will include games on Nvidia GeForce Now and the Google Play Store.
These Chromebooks come with a three-month subscription trial to Amazon Luna+ and Nvidia GeForce Now’s highest tier. Buyers can also receive a complimentary SteelSeries Rival 3 gaming mouse (subject to retailer availability).
Google is also launching a campaign dubbed “undercover gamers,” who may be unexpectedly gaming on a Chromebook. In the campaign are actor and Black Panther star, Winston Duke, and Jackson State University head football coach, Deion Sanders, along with his sons Shilo and Shedeur.
Devices from the different OEMs will be available for order in the U.S. from various retail channels starting in October, starting at $400.
All cloud gaming Chromebooks have been independently tested and verified by game performance measurement platform, GameBench, to consistently deliver a smooth, responsive gaming experience with 120 frames per second and console-class input latency of under 85 milliseconds.
He noted a lot of people used to be hardcore gamers, but as they have aged, they have found that a lot of things in life get in the way of the gaming habit, like raising kids. For these lapsed gamers, these Chromebooks could be very appealing because they lower the cost of admission without sacrificing a lot of performance, he said. Gaming rigs are still pretty expensive, especially with supply disruptions.
The ChromeOS started more than a decade ago as a browser running on a stripped-down laptop. In 2017, Google enabled Android apps to run on it. It added Linux development environments in 2019. Android gaming on Chromebooks grew exponentially, Maletis said.
You can play games like Destiny 2 on GeForce Now. Games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Destiny should run with a latency of 60 milliseconds — faster than a lot of home PCs. If you stop playing, you can log back in and pick up where you left off. The OS boots in seven seconds or resumes in three seconds.
“While gaming on a computer is fun, it’s not always easy and it’s certainly not cheap,” Maletis said.
The press asked if Google had the commitment to focus on games for long or if other cloud gaming services would stick around.
“We would have loved to have had Stadia here. And, but the decision to shut down Stadia is by no means emblematic of what’s going on in the industry,” Maletis said. “I think Nvidia GeForce Now in particular, Xbox, and Luna have really been able to find great business models and incredible technologies. And, from a ChromeOS perspective, it’s just so part and parcel to the principles that we have of cloud-based computing. And so we see, honestly, cloud gaming is one of the biggest growth drivers for us. And so we’re all in and remain committed.”
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