Discord takes aim at Skype with new video chat and screen sharing features

Discord is already the go-to chat client for gaming communities everywhere, and soon it's going to be making a serious run at the likes of Skype and Google Hangouts. Video is on its way. Discord announced on its blog that testing of new video chat and screen sharing features is kicking off today, on a small scale. Five percent of registered desktop players will have access to the new features, which will be rolled out over the course of the day. 

Discord said that a limited test run is necessary because the bandwidth required for video data is "a behemoth" compared to what's required for voice-only. And of course there will also likely be some bugs and other issues that are best ironed out before it goes out to the public. 

"We’re doing this test to see how our servers handle the increase in bandwidth (alternatively, we could launch it for everybody today and most likely nuke our own servers and then nobody gets to use it. Riveting)!" it said. 

The good news is that people selected for the test will be able to initiate video calls with anybody, including friends who aren't in the test. The bad news, potentially at least, is that it may be a rough ride at first: Discord warned that video calling may have to be turned off at some point during the test so that problems can be addressed. 

Video chats and screen shares are currently only available in one-on-one calls and group DMs, and so are limited to a maximum of ten people at a time—and Discord warned that call quality could suffer with more than five people. Once the calls are initiated, video or screen share buttons will enable you to share either your webcam or your desktop with everyone connected. Full-screen and picture-in-picture are supported, and the PIP window can be docked anywhere in the app that you like.

If you don't get in on the testing period, you'll have a bit of a wait for the real thing to go live, but not too long.

"We’re still at least a month out from considering a full launch. Why? We’re measuring and testing bandwidth; acquiring and implementing more backend servers; and praying our code actually works. This takes time. It could also be longer than a month," the announcement says. "What we do know is that it’s good enough to start testing and this is the most soon soon that we’ve ever sooned." 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.