By KIM BELLARD
By the time you read this, Microsoft may have already struck a deal with the messaging service Discord. VentureBeat reported two weeks ago that Discord was in an “exclusive acquisition discussion” with an interested party, for a deal that could reach at least $10b. Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal each quickly revealed that the interested party was Microsoft (and also confirmed the likely price).
Me, I’m wishing that a healthcare company – hey, TelaDoc and UnitedHealth Group, I’m looking at you! – was in the mix.
Let’s back up. If you are not a gamer, you may not know about Discord. It was launched in 2015, primarily as a community for gamers. Originally it focused on texting/chat, but has widened its capabilities to include audio and video. The Verge described it: “Discord is a great mix of Slack messaging and Zoom video, combined together with a unique ability to just drop into audio calls freely.”
Zoom meets Slack meets Clubhouse.
As you might infer from the potential asking price, Discord has done quite well. It has over 140 million monthly users, and, despite having no advertising and offering a free service, generated $130 million in revenues last year (through its “enhanced Discord experience” subscription service Nitro). OK, it still isn’t profitable, but a December funding round gave it a $7b valuation.
As of right now, Discord is nearly inescapable in the gaming space. It takes about a minute to open a new public or private Discord channel for any given topic, complete with voice chat, image hosting, and browser access.
The pandemic helped growth, as it did for gaming generally, as well as for services like Zoom, but Discord leaned into the moment and broadened its reach. NPR says: “What started as a community for gamers has in the past year become