Let the online chat wars begin! That is the hidden message behind Valve's new Steam Chat messaging client, which has now exited beta and is available in polished form for anyone and everyone who cares to give it a test run. In doing so, Valve is going up against Discord in the gaming chat space, with several similar features that are of interest to gamers.
For many gamers, Discord is the go-to chat client—it's even integrated into the Xbox One, as of a few months ago. It's also how I let my son know dinner is ready if his phone is turned off and/or I don't feel like yelling (or walking) across the house. If you are an online gamer, than chances are high that you either use Discord, or have tried it out at some point. Valve is hoping to take on that roll with Steam Chat.
The new Steam Chat is a different beast from the built-in messaging program of old. It offers a more flexible friends list, allowing you to group your friends by game and by party. You can see who is playing together, watch friends enter into a match and emerge when the their game is over, and of course join them if you wish.
This is a standalone client with a modernized user interface (UI). It supports inline videos, pictures, tweets, and other content.
"Every chat on Steam is now multimedia friendly. Getting your point across is easier than ever, now that everyone can see your GIFs inline rather than a list of links. Paste a picture from the clipboard and upload it directly to the chat," Valve explains.
Launching a modern chat messaging client might not seem like a big deal on the surface, but for Valve, it's certainly an important moment. Steam is by far the most popular digital distribution system for games, and at any given time can have tens of millions of gamers online at the same time. And Steam as a whole enjoys well over 100 million users. That means there is the potential for Steam Chat to be huge.
That will depend on how willing gamers are to switch from other chat clients, such as Discord, and go all-in with Steam Chat. Valve is a little late to the party, though better late than never, right? If you want to try it out yourself, hit the link the via field and give Steam Chat a download.