I used to play video games almost exclusively from a laptop. Skyrim, Overwatch, or The Division 2—my laptop struggled, but did run them. I developed a ritual that had to be completed before I started up any game. Exit out of Discord. Force quit out of anything optional. But most importantly, close all of my precious tabs. Then, and only then, I could start playing a game. If I tried to preserve my tabs, I’d often find myself crashed out of the game and Google Chrome, often needing a full restart.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those of us who open a lot of tabs, and those of us who don’t. For the 65 percent of Americans who use Google Chrome to do so, it means getting used to browser crashes thanks to a particular tab or two unexpectedly eating up all your RAM—and then crashing you out of a particularly tough stronghold in The Division 2 and needing to restart the hours-worth of progress you’ve lost in another game.
Opera, which is known for its speedy browser of the same name, has created Opera GX, a new browser specifically for gamers that’s aimed at fixing this problem.
“Other browsers use as much CPU [and] RAM as they need to, which means that sometimes they’ll use it all,” Opera GX product director Maciej Kocemba told VICE. “This makes the game performance slower and might result in your character dying.”
Opera GX is different. Instead of having to close out your browser while playing a video game, you can choose exactly how much RAM and CPU your browser is limited to. The gaming browser is in its “early access” stage, like a video game, and will remain there for some time. Opera’s developers want users to be able to help shape the system the browser becomes, Kocemba said.
“We saw that when it comes to gaming there is a different set of needs that go beyond what a traditional browser can offer,” Kocemba said. “Rather than gamers having to reshape an ordinary browser, weighing it down with extensions, with Opera GX we wanted to make something designed specifically to suit their needs out of the box.”
It’s a useful feature for those of us attached to our tabs, but even more important for streamers, which is an already resource-heavy process. It’s natural for streamers to be tabbing in-and-out of a game, checking chat or pulling up a video to show viewers. Hell, I do that too, and I don’t have any viewers. If I’m stuck in at a puzzle I can’t solve, maybe I’ll pull up a tutorial. Other times, I’ll hear a ping from Facebook Messenger and open up a chat. These can be risky decisions to make. Do I want to risk crashing my computer to tab out of Overwatch while I wait to load into the game to ask my husband to pick up cheese so I can make nachos tonight? Sometimes it’s a risk that feels necessarily, even when I know it’ll end up with me timed out of Overwatch as a punishment for leaving a game in progress.
Opera GX may be the fix for all that. There’s an upcoming feature, too, that’s supposed to let users extract a video using Opera and overlay it over a game. If you don’t have two screens, you can watch a tutorial video without tabbing out of your game or crashing your computer, according to Kocemba.
Opera GX is the first gaming browser of its kind, and Opera is banking on the hope that the browser is something gamers will ultimately grow to need.
“They’ll have no idea what a gaming browser is because there never was such a thing,” he said.
It certainly looks like it’s designed to appeal to gamers. Opera GX will fit into any LED-heavy, Razer-esque gaming setup. The design is red and black, but there are lots of options for customization.
“We wanted to make it look cool,” he said. “People spend a lot of time making the perfect setup, whether it’s the LED lights or hardware. A browser should fit within that.”