After trying, and failing, to acquire the popular chat platform Discord for $10 billion, Microsoft has opted for the next-best thing: directly integrating Discord’s voice-chat capabilities into Xbox consoles.
The news arrived on Wednesday on Xbox Blog, and it clarified that for the time being, Discord access would be exclusive to the optional “Xbox Insider” tier of early, beta, and preview console OS updates. That update is already going live in waves to Xbox Insiders today, and it adds a new tooltip to the system’s “chat” sidebar: “Try Discord Voice on Xbox today!”
Simplifying your Discord life adds a few complications
Since its debut in 2015, Discord has exploded in popularity as a gaming-friendly chat platform on computers and smartphones. One major differentiator over a service like Slack, which looks and operates similarly, is Discord’s clever ties into existing gaming networks. The idea being, wherever you’re playing a game, Discord can broadcast that status to friends via ties to other platforms’ APIs (“playing Stray on PlayStation,” “LFP in World of WarCraft,” “streaming a session of Peggle 2 on Twitch”). Users can switch between direct messages, game-specific text chat rooms, real-time voice channels, and even video-sharing services to coordinate their next online gaming sessions.
But what if you want to talk among your Discord voice chat friends while also using dedicated headphones on an Xbox, PlayStation, or Switch? Up until this week, you couldn’t do so directly on any console. Your best bet was to find a headset that supports simultaneous Bluetooth inputs, then connect it to both your console and your Discord-loaded smartphone. (Alternatively, you can do what I do: put a smartphone’s earbud into one ear for Discord, then drape a console’s headphones over that. I don’t recommend this.)
Sadly, this week’s rollout of Discord on Xbox is a bit limited. The biggest issue is that there is no formal Discord app or interface on Xbox. You will need to keep a smartphone handy to initiate a “handoff” of your Discord session. Get ready for an annoying first-time setup process.
Should you have an updated Xbox on the Insider OS track, its new “Try Discord Voice” prompt will initiate an account-sync process, which requires using a mobile Discord app to take a photo of a QR code displayed by your Xbox. (You’ll need to re-do this if you’ve done so before, due to it adding a new level of credential for voice chat.) With this in place, when you are about to join a voice channel on Discord, a new “try voice chat on console” prompt will appear.
Tapping through this will then, ugh, create another handover to Microsoft’s dedicated Xbox app on either iOS or Android. Yes, if you want this to work, you need to install the Xbox app on your mobile device (and Discord will suggest you do so, if you haven’t yet). This facilitates the key technical aspect of forwarding all Discord audio to your Xbox hardware.
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