Sony PlayStation Vita users will be able to Skype with other gamers after an app was released for the handheld games console.

The new app allows for voice and video chat, using the Vita's front and rear-facing cameras. It can be run as a background process on the Vita, allowing calls to be received or made while playing games, which are paused during use.

The app became available for free download from Sony's online PlayStation Store from today in the US and tomorrow in Europe and Asia. It allows for calls to other Skype users for free, or to landline and mobile phones through the use of Skype credit.

Sony's PlayStation Vita, which launched earlier this year, is a dedicated gaming console first and foremost, though Sony has also taken pains to feature applications that appeal to more general users. In addition to Skype, it has software for things like online maps and video recording, putting the device in competition with smartphones and tablets, which are also increasingly becoming rivals in the handheld gaming market.

Skype could be considered an indirect competitor to Sony. Last October it was acquired for $8.5 billion by Microsoft, maker of Xbox gaming consoles. Microsoft has said that Skype will be integrated with its products, but it will remain available as an application on rival platforms.

Earlier this week, Skype released an app for the Windows Phone operating system. In addition to most computer operating systems, the popular software also has versions for most smartphones and tablets as well as some internet-connected TVs.

A version is also available for Sony's older handheld console, the PlayStation Portable, though it doesn't support video chat or in-game calling, and requires extra memory to run.