In a post about upcoming Epic Games Store social features (opens in new tab), the company introduced a new "party system" it's working on: a way for players to group up and chat in and out of games. Somewhat like Discord channels, party "windows" will allow Epic Store users to chat with each other whether or not they're in a game together, and won't depend on one person staying logged in. Parties will support voice, video, and text chat.
Epic's vision is for cross-platform parties where you can "share your latest highlights to convince your friends to play a game with you" or "kick off a match with only a few friends in the group while being able to continue talking" to everyone else. So, modern chat rooms, more or less.
Discord servers, or individual Discord voice or text channels, don't make for a perfect analogy. I make the comparison mainly because Discord is the most common point of reference for this kind of thing right now—it's how I chat with the people I play games with, and the same goes for just about everyone I know. Steam also has text and voice chat systems that one could conceivably use instead of Discord, but I only use them when there aren't other options. That being the case, it seems like Epic will have to offer something pretty special if it's going to take root, at least outside of Fortnite-land. In fact, Epic says that its store's direct message "whispers" are being retooled because so few people use them right now.
Epic remains ambitious, though. "We want to transform the Epic Games Store into a place where you can connect with your friends across platforms, effortlessly jump into parties with voice chat, and play games together without missing a beat," says the post.
The fancy party system will come at an unstated future date. Today's look was "early," Epic said. However, a new social panel is being rolled out now, according to the Epic Game Store Trello roadmap (opens in new tab). That'll add Player Cards, which are just a way to pull up info about a friend, join their party, and so on. Epic is also improving the friend search tool this month, it says, and adding a new "minimized" button to open the Social Panel (it's basic but it does need this). This month's update will also add a 'do not disturb' status for when you want to pause notifications.
A minor side note: Epic says that whispers are "going into the vault" for now because of the lack of use. I find it kind of weird that Epic would remove the feature altogether just because it's not used much, so I'll ask what the deal with that is and update this article if I hear back.