Minecraft Walls
20 Feb 2019

The Curious Question of Chromebook Chronology

A fellow PLP librarian recently asked me a very interesting question via email and I want to take a moment to answer in more detail for the wider community. They were wondering if Minecraft (any version) and the super-affordable Chromebook ecosystem worked well together. Are they compatible, or would you need a more traditional desktop PC to make things happen?

Originally I thought the answer was flat out no—at least not directly. I have never been so happy to admit I was wrong. But there’s a catch…

Android is the Answer

Little did I realize that Google has been slowly rolling out some changes in ChromeOS to incorporate apps from the Google Play store over the past couple years.

While there are some “hack” solutions like going into developer mode on the Chromebook, installing Crouton, duel-booting Linux, and then downloading the Java version of Minecraft, this isn’t a viable solution for most libraries. It’s more like a can of worms. I think most librarians would agree this process would negate many of the advantages of a netbook lending program.

The good news is that newer Chromebooks (2017 and beyond) have an advantage. If your version of ChromeOS is up to date and on this list of compatible Chromebook via Google’s official dev documentation, you’re in luck. These devices have access to the Google Play store, meaning it’s possible to install the Android version of Minecraft, a.k.a. Bedrock edition, the same version available in Windows 10 and video game consoles, and integrated into the Xbox Live account system.

Is this you? Here’s the install process for Android apps in ChromeOS. Try it out!

But Read The Fine Print

In researching this blog post it became clear there’s a lot of conflicting reports online about how people are playing Minecraft on their Chromebooks. This is partly because of some confusion around Google’s terminology. Chromebooks are a type of laptop specifically designed for ChromeOS, but they can use other operating systems too. So when you ask a search engine the question “Can I play Minecraft on a Chromebook” the answer you’ll find is yes, you can, but not in ChromeOS, breaking the expectation. The real question is “will it run within the Chromebook’s native ChromeOS?” and the answer right now is maybe, but close to probably not.

I haven’t had a chance to test this out myself, but while doing research for this blog post I also found some mention of touchscreen support being another key factor in individual Android app support for Chromebooks. From what I understand, unless the software developer(s) have specifically allowed the Android version of their app to work without a touchscreen, this means there’s another barrier to entry because not all Chromebooks (and especially the inexpensive models) have this feature.

What About MCEE?

Coincidentally, around the same time I started writing this blog post last week I found out through the Minecraft Mentor program that the Education Edition team is “investigating the viability of a Chromebook pilot this year“. I have a survey link if you’re interested in participating in the pilot, just shoot me an email.

While you’re at it, why not sign up as a Minecraft beta tester? It seems they have lots of new features on the way…I’m particularly interested in the Hololense 2 announcement schedule for next week at the 2019 Mobile Web Congress. Just yesterday Microsoft released this teaser video which has a lot of people asking questions…

This was is a guest post by Chris Markman, Senior Librarian at Palo Alto City Library in conjunction with PLP’s 2018-2019 Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, “Cybersecurity for Youth Using Minecraft”. This project is supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library, and no official endorsement by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library should be inferred.