Since its launch back in 2015, Discord has become one of the most popular methods for communicating while playing a game. The platform hit a new milestone in March 2019, revealing that it now had 250m users up from the 200m it announced at the end of last year.
We caught up with the company's CTO Stanislav Vishnevskiy to find out about Discord's highs and lows over the last four years, as well as what its strategy is when it comes to selling games on its platform.
Congratulations on hitting 250m users. What does this milestone mean for Discord as a company?
Thank you. I can honestly say we never expected this. We are constantly surprised by our growth and so excited that our users continue to show such passion for what we are doing. Knowing that our passion project is also a passion for so many others is a driving force for us, keeping us focused on what we want to build every day. We want to keep making great things for our super fans and for all the incredible communities on Discord.
Looking at that growth curve over time, it’s accelerated rapidly in the last two years. Why do you think that is?
Discord’s appeal is in making it easy for small groups of friends join together to talk, play games, listen to music, watch a streamer, or just unwind with the people they like best. These groups - or servers - are private in nature and not discoverable by other users without a direct link so feel personal in a way that other social platforms don’t.
What we have seen is that the more people try Discord, the more they bring their friends and communities with them. Individual users, communities, developers, and publishers are all joining to connect with each other. That’s been our mission from the start and this rapid growth just shows how important that has been to the gaming community as a whole.
What has the biggest moment been for Discord so far as a company?
There have been so many big moments for us over the past few years. We have had influencers embracing Discord on their own like Lirik and Ninja. In March 2018, we even saw Ninja teach Drake how to use the platform to chat while playing together. But, the biggest moments for us are when we go out in some piece of branded Discord developer clothing and strangers will come up to talk to us about their love for what we do. We call these “Discord moments,” and most people in the company have had that experience at least once. Fans will go out of their way to connect with someone wearing Discord swag, and that is so unique and represents so much of the community feeling we want to encourage. It’s unlike any experience more of us have ever had - including those of us who have spent years working in games.
We’ve also been incredibly excited to see massive publishers and partners talk about using Discord. Microsoft, the Minecraft team, Bethesda, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., and Epic Games (to name a few) have embraced Discord as the place to connect with their communities, and that is really meaningful to us. Itt\ tells us that Discord is becoming a natural community meeting spot for all sides of the developer/publisher/player relationship, and it brings us closer to our mission of bringing people together around games.
And what would you say the biggest challenges have been?
Launching something new always has its challenges. How do you get the word out about your product? How do you grow it? How do you keep up with the industry? How do you teach community managers to use this to reach their players?
The key for us has been in asking ourselves these questions every day and listening to what our users are asking for. We stay focused on delivering on the promises we have made since the beginning which is staying authentic to the people using Discord.
Last year, Discord announced it was going to be rolling out a storefront. This came out, but in March was quietly changed to developers selling games directly. Can you tell us a bit about why this shift took place?
After seeing how people use Discord and listening to user feedback, we learned that commerce in official Discord servers is how people want to get their content on Discord. For players, finding and buying games now happens in the servers where they know they are connecting with the people making the games they are buying and playing
Secondly, we learned that developers wanted more agency over their monetization and less friction between their community and their commerce. So, we evolved verified servers and built better tools for them to create more robust community experiences for their superfans in the server. For example, we’re excited to see indie developers like Crema Games launch a pre-order via their verified server on Discord to engage their users around the upcoming launch of the hotly anticipated game Temtem.
Broadly speaking, how would you say the store aspect of Discord has done so far? For a company that generally shouts when you hit milestones, there has been very little said about the retail platform.
We have done a lot of experimenting with how we can give players more of what they love and give games devs/publishers access to superfan communities. The biggest learning from that was realising that a storefront forces people to step out of core communities to get the content they were craving. We also saw exclusivity deals putting limitations on user choice. This is why we moved away from a store and focused on in-server commerce.
In addition to that, we’ve also added new perks to our Nitro program including the recently launched server boosts.
Overall, we are really excited with how communities and players have embraced all of these new features, and we are going to continue to come up with more authentic ways to get players what they want. We are going to keep working towards giving our developer/publisher partners more tools to connect more deeply with their superfans.
What’s your ambition for the coming years?
Our focus remains on bringing people together around the things they love. That means adding more new features, creating more ways to connect all kinds of games and gamers - PC, mobile and console, and to look at how our fans use Discord to connect with non-gaming friends and friend groups. We are going to constantly take the pulse of our users to answer those questions and build towards giving them more of the Discord experiences they love.