Game-focused VoIP app Discord has reportedly made its way into the market and it’s possible Microsoft is the buyer.
VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi reported Monday that Discord is in final negotiating a sale with an unspecified buyer and is in “active talks” with a few others. The purchase price could be well north of $ 10 billion. To update: Bloomberg reports that Microsoft is “in the running” to close a deal to acquire Discord.
Discord is a popular app used by millions of gamers for low latency voice chat and other communications. Due to social distancing measures and the general growth of the video game industry, Discord has nearly doubled its user base and seen sales surge to $ 130 million in 2020. It was worth $ 7 billion in December and is reportedly not yet profitable.
The reported asking price puts many companies out of the running to acquire Discord. Facebook would be an obvious candidate but is currently under antitrust investigation, as are other giants like Amazon, Google and Apple.
With that, Microsoft seems to be the last real domestic contender here. You are already connected to Discord as you can already link your Xbox account directly to the service. With $ 131 billion in cash as of December 31st, it sure got the money. and it’s reportedly still in the market for more gaming-centric acquisitions, even after the ZeniMax Media purchase was completed earlier this month.
However, the question that arises is how much more Microsoft can realistically expect this year before it receives its own antitrust lawsuit.
Discord’s ubiquity would make it a natural pickup for any game maker. With millions of players already on the platform, this would be a natural target for marketing efforts. The downside, of course, is that Discord’s independence is currently a non-trivial part of its appeal, and a theoretically Microsoft-powered Discord would likely force a significant migration to another platform.
Every popular video game in 2021 has at least one Discord community, including Genshin Impact, Valorant, Apex Legends, and Rocket League. (Discord screenshot)
Discord was originally launched in May 2015 as an alternative to other modern VoIP programs such as Ventrilo and Mumble. In online games like League of Legends and World of Warcraft, a low-impact, low-latency voice chat program is an important part of strategy and communication with other players. Discord was designed to meet these needs.
The program currently also offers instant messaging, chat rooms, voice and video calls, Xbox Live integration, and the ability to connect up to 100 servers simultaneously. Basic access to the service is free, but customers can pay a subscription fee to join Discord Nitro and receive several exclusive perks.
As of now, Discord is almost inevitable in gaming. It takes about a minute to open a new Discord public or private channel for a specific topic, including voice chat, picture hosting, and browser access. There are dedicated Discord servers for topics as detailed as a single class in an MMORPG or a specific character in fighting games like Street Fighter V.
A Dark Horse contender for a Discord buyer could be Epic Games, which was recently speculated to be worth $ 28 billion. Fortnite publisher, headquartered in Cary, NC, made headlines earlier this month when it bought the parent company of Mediatonic, the UK-based developer of last summer’s hit viral game Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout.
More importantly, Epic made a number of minor acquisitions as early as 2021, starting with RAD Game Tools in Kirkland, Washington. The most recent purchase, Manchester’s Cubic Motion specializes in facial animation technology. The general theme seems to be that Epic is picking up smaller companies to include their technology in improving its Unreal Engine development toolkit, the latest version of which is slated to be released later this year.
While buying Discord wouldn’t improve Unreal, the integration of its VoIP technology with the Epic Games Store could give this service a boost in its ongoing competition against Valve’s Steam. Discord itself made a short-lived attempt at releasing games in 2018, with titles like “Last Year: The Nightmare” available right in the app. So a collaboration with Epic wouldn’t be a big departure.
It’s important to note, of course, that this is still a rumor, albeit a widespread one. Discord was already up for sale in 2018 and then decided to remain independent. That could do it now. If a large company bought it, it could add another seismic shift to the gaming landscape in an already notoriously shaky time.