Discord announced a suite of new features and an additional, cheaper subscription tier to its Nitro service on Monday designed to position its chat platform as not just a place to talk with your friends while you play video games, but also a place to play those games with friends and find new software.
Discord, started in 2015, has grown to more than 150 million monthly active users predominantly by being a free-to-use multiplatform chat application not unlike Slack. But where Discord thrives is less in work contexts and more for seamless voice communication and in allowing large communities to organize around their interests, with a large focus on gaming.
To make money, Discord has begun to rely on its Nitro subscription platform, which costs $10 a month or $100 a year and offers basic feature upgrades like more-customizable profiles and server upgrades like higher-quality uploads. (Nitro Classic, a cheaper $4.99 option, offers fewer perks; Discord says customers on Classic can keep the plan but it will no longer be allowing new sign ups.)
Beginning Oct. 20, Discord will start offering a new, $2.99 per month plan called Nitro Basic designed to make the service much more attractive to the scores of users who so far pay nothing to use Discord. The Basic offering allows for largely cosmetic upgrades, including animated emoji and special profile badges.
But to lure customers who might be considering a full Nitro subscription, Discord is now planning to sweeten the deal with the launch of a key new feature: in-app gaming. The hope that more players will come to think of Discord as a place to do stuff with friends instead of just chat. Discord is calling its new gaming initiative Activities, and these will start with a series of nine minigames that work well within the context of Discord's voice chat capabilities.
Discord's new Activities tab will let users play minigames with one another inside of the app, starting with more obvious use cases like poker and chess. Image: Discord
For example, Discord will now offer a Watch Together app for watching YouTube together with your friends, a poker app for organizing group card games, and chess. Only one user will need a standard Nitro plan to invite their friends to play these games. (Nitro Basic users do not get access to activities save Watch Together and Putt Party, which are also available to free Discord users.)
Discord is also launching a new app directory, which will serve to make the more than 500,000 apps on the platform more accessible. Apps on Discord function less like standard desktop applications and more like server bots you might be used to on Slack or elsewhere. Discord says it plans to start offering premium app subscriptions to developers who want to monetize this software in the future, and it's launching a $5 million fund for new projects built for the Discord platform.
Discord is hoping its appeal to communities and app makers will help it generate enough subscription revenue to sustain the platform as a free-to-use service, while also turning Discord into a place developers might one day consider a potential revenue stream.
"I love that Discord is built in a way where communities get to customize it and make it their own," said Justin Beckwith, the company's director of engineering, in an interview with Protocol last week. "We’ve had this huge developer ecosystem that’s been thriving for years, and it's exciting to give it a little bit more shape."
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly implied Discord's new Activities minigames are available to Discord Nitro Basic subscribers. That is untrue; only standard Nitro subscribers can access minigames.