Game On: Discord Dives Back Into Gaming with a Strategic Redesign

The platform is changing its purpose to return closer to gaming, and redesigning its service to provide a better gaming experience for its users. One of the more extreme examples of the ongoing changes in the digital landscape is Discord’s recent announcement of a turn back to its roots to focus on gaming – which involves rebuilding its service to be better suited for gamers.

Reviving the Core: Discord's Gaming Genesis

Discord has always existed as a niche gamer space; it’s where you go to hang out with friends in voice chat and video channels and group text. But since then, the company has grown rapidly, adding more and more kinds of communities that might want to call Discord home. Now, as the pandemic has wound down, Discord’s leadership, led by its co-founder and CEO Jason Citron, has done a fair bit of soul-searching. Taking users’ feelings into account, they’ve come to a clear conclusion: the gaming community is why Discord really works.

Dialing Up the Gaming Experience

Discord wants to improve gaming, and that goes well beyond the user interface. The company wants to make Discord faster, more reliable and better functioning. Its press release promises that the platform will work better on PCs and CONSOLES as well as Android and iOS mobile devices. This will give gamers and those who follow gamers or are part of gaming communities as much access to their web community and favourite games as possible, regardless of the hardware. Discord’s 200 million active monthly users are more than 90 per cent gamers, according to its own assessments, so it is putting its money where its mouth is.

Engaging Beyond the Game

The social platform offers more than just technical improvements – it’s also paving the way for a more immersive post-game experience beyond the comforts of embedded features. Already Discord has rolled out mini-games and has opened its platform to third-party developers with its Embedded App SDK – a new publishing platform due to open soon – and introductions of Quests will let traditional developers implement gameplay that encourages new places to explore.

Strategic Shifts Amidst Challenges

Discord’s renewed gaming playbook comes at a time of financial and regulatory troubles for the company. It’s raised close to $1 billion in funding and reached a valuation of around $15 billion in 2021, but has faced a long road to profitability. The company’s decision to slash 17 per cent of its workforce in January 2024 is a major step to lean into a sharper strategic focus. And the company is facing regulatory scrutiny – scrutiny around children’s online safety, in particular.

The Future of Gaming on Discord

Discord’s reimagining of its gaming future arrives with a sense of anticipation from the community. The pivot back to gaming is not only a return to its origin, but also a look to the future, recognising the key role that games play in catalysing meaningful connections between users. With enhancements to functionality, embracing third-party developers and a keen focus on the user experience beyond gameplay, Discord is ready to revolutionise the way we play together.

The Promise of CONSOLES in Discord's Gaming Ecosystem

The console has long been the central locus of the gaming experience, offering what sociologist Mia Consalvo in Cheap Pleasures (2007) calls ‘the electrifying feeling of immersion mixed with the social aspect of playfulness’. With its offline-on-demand features, Discord’s strategic expansions onto PlayStation and Xbox aim to enrich console gaming by granting access to Discord’s supercharged community features to console players. On a macro level, the efforts that Discord is putting into bringing consoles into the fold indicate its resolute determination to close the gap between social communication and gaming and, on the micro level, this means that more gamers can play like kings.

In closing, Discord’s tactical pivot is a landmark transformation within its product evolution, which is more than certain to bring about a new wave of innovation within gaming. By truly embracing its origins, and the power of consoles, Discord will see itself at the front of the ecosystem, evolving the space of gaming, connecting ever more players and developers, ultimately creating a dynamic, inclusive and interactive space of gaming. It will be exciting to see how technology, community, and gaming continue to evolve going forward, in the chapters we as a community are yet to come.

May 30, 2024
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