After trying to branch out during the pandemic, Discord's refocusing on the 90% of users who play games: 'We've recognized the need to narrow our focus'

(Image credit: Discord)

On Discord's official blog, CEO Jason Citron has declared a bold new vision for Discord that, actually, is a lot like the old vision. After its recent years chasing the widest possible user base, Citron says Discord is returning to its original vision: being a place where you hang out while playing games.

"When we think about what the next ten years will be like and what people want from the internet," Citron says, "it keeps coming back to gaming."

The blog is haunted by the lingering specter of the early pandemic years, during which Discord attempted to pivot away from its gaming focus in favor of being a kind of omni-platform for communities of all kinds, including a brief and much-maligned dabbling with NFT integration. In the post-lockdown era, it seems like the promise of that wider scope hasn't held up: According to figures in the blog post, 90% of Discord's monthly users are playing games while on Discord. "After taking stock of the world now that the pandemic is largely behind us," Citron says, "we've recognized the need to narrow our focus from broadly being a community-centric chat app."

In addition to that 90% number, Citron shares some other interesting statistics about how Discord's being used today. All those users contribute to "a combined 1.5 billion hours" with Discord running while playing a game. Also, while plenty of us have accumulated a long list of Discord servers, we're apparently not spending much time in the larger communities (can confirm, personally). According to Citron, most Discord users are "hanging out with small friend groups, containing anywhere from five to 15 people."

As for how Discord will realize its new, old vision, Citron doesn't provide many specifics, but marks out goals for making Discord faster and easier to use on as many platforms as possible. While predicting what gaming will look like in the next ten years, Citron expects that "cross-platform play will become a prerequisite." To meet that expected demand for cross-platform support, Citron says Discord will "continue prioritizing the power" of the platform's "voice, video, and streaming technology" while bringing "Discord's capabilities to more devices for cross-platform experiences"—work it's already started with Discord support on Xbox and PlayStation 5.

Better voice chat and streaming tech is a nice thought, but given that we're all basically using Discord for gaming already anyway, the reorienting might mean more to Discord itself than it does to us. In an ideal world, this would be an announcement that heralded the return to a glorious era where the internet had more places to hang out. Sure, my server list's full of Discords for podcasts, niche streamers, friend groups, and—hm—shiny Pokémon hunting, apparently, but nothing beats the old feeling of finding a new forum to read. A forum on a website. Which you could Google.

Lincoln Carpenter

Lincoln spent his formative years in World of Warcraft, and hopes to someday recover from the experience. Having earned a Creative Writing degree by convincing professors to accept his papers about Dwarf Fortress, he leverages that expertise in his most important work: judging a video game’s lore purely on the quality of its proper nouns. With writing at Waypoint and Fanbyte, Lincoln started freelancing for PC Gamer in Fall of 2021, and will take any excuse to insist that games are storytelling toolkits—whether we’re shaping those stories for ourselves, or sharing them with others. Or to gush about Monster Hunter.