Xbox is the first game console to support voice chat on Discord.
Rolling out to “Xbox Insiders” today; for now, you’ll need to pair your smartphone with your Xbox.
After trying to buy the popular chat platform Discord for $10 billion and failing, Microsoft decided to do the next best thing: add voice chat from Discord directly to Xbox consoles.
The news was posted on the Xbox Blog on Wednesday, and it was made clear that for now, only the “Xbox Insider” tier of early, beta, and preview console OS updates will be able to use Discord. This update is already live for Xbox Insiders, and it adds a new tooltip to the system’s “chat” sidebar that says, “Try Discord Voice on Xbox today!”
Simplifying your life on Discord makes a few things harder.
Since it came out in 2015, Discord has become a very popular way to chat on computers and phones while playing games. One big thing that sets Discord apart from similar services like Slack, which looks and works the same, is how well it works with other gaming networks. The idea is that no matter where you’re playing a game, Discord can let your friends know by connecting to the APIs of other platforms (“playing Stray on PlayStation,” “LFP in World of WarCraft,” “streaming a session of Peggle 2 on Twitch”). Users can plan their next online gaming sessions by switching between direct messages, game-specific text chat rooms, real-time voice channels, and even services that let them share videos.
But what if you want to talk with your Discord voice chat friends while also using headphones on an Xbox, PlayStation, or Switch? You couldn’t do this directly on any console before this week. Your best option was to find a headset that lets you connect it to both your console and your smartphone with Discord on it. (You could also do what I do, which is put an earbud from a smartphone in one ear for Discord and then put a console’s headphones over that. I don’t think it’s a good idea.)
This week, Xbox is only getting a small amount of Discord. The main problem is that there is no official app or interfaces for Discord on Xbox. To “hand off” your Discord session, you will need to have a smartphone on hand. Prepare for a long and annoying process the first time you use it.
If you have an updated Xbox on the Insider OS track, the new “Try Discord Voice” prompt will start an account-syncing process that requires you to use a mobile Discord app to take a picture of a QR code shown by your Xbox. (If you’ve already done this, you’ll need to do it again because it adds a new level of credential for voice chat.) When you are about to join a voice channel on Discord, you will see a new prompt that says “Try voice chat on the console.”
If you tap on this, you’ll be taken back to Microsoft’s dedicated Xbox app on either iOS or Android. Yes, if you want this to work, you have to put the Xbox app on your mobile device. If you haven’t already, Discord will tell you to do this. This helps with the most important technical part of sending all audio from Discord to your Xbox hardware.
Now that everything is set up, you can talk to anyone in the Discord voice channel you picked right from your Xbox. Its menu interface lets you mute or changes the volume of every other user in the voice chat channel you choose, which is helpful when the game is fast-paced and you need to make changes quickly.
Chatters can switch between Discord voice chat and a game’s dedicated voice chat channel with the push of a single button in the menu. (This is helpful if you’re talking to friends online while a random match is being made and then need to turn on in-game voice chat for a second to confirm a strategy with your current teammates before going back to talking about how to make soufflés with your friends.)
All better Discord control goes back to your phone, which is a shame. You can’t switch to a different voice channel, add or remove friends from your current voice channel, or type a message to someone on Discord on your Xbox. But in a world where people have to switch between headphones, it’s great that all of the audio is now on one platform. This is especially true since Xbox makes it easy to balance game audio and chat audio at different master volume levels.
Does this mean that one day we might be able to use our universal Discord credentials on any gaming console to access its cross-platform friend list and voice chat without having to use multiple devices? That would be great. Due to the need to switch between smartphones, today’s Insider OS launch isn’t a fulfillment of that dream. We wonder if Microsoft and Discord need to do more work to make that process easier. But we hope that today’s soft launch will get other platform owners to take the idea seriously, and we’re glad that Microsoft is still open to the idea of cross-platform play.