discord

Gaming chat startup Discord raises $150M, surpassing $2B valuation

Posted by | discord, Gaming, TC | No Comments

Chatty gamers are apparently worth billions.

Discord, the gaming chat startup with more than 200 million active users, announced Friday that it had secured $150 million in funding at a $2.05 billion valuation. The round was led by Greenoaks Capital with participation from Firstmark, Tencent, IVP, Index Ventures and Technology Opportunity Partners.

The company announced this past April that they had raised $50 million in funding at a $1.65 billion valuation. With this latest bout of cash, Discord has now pulled in more than $280 million in funding.

The influx of new money comes as the chat startup goes full speed ahead on one of its most ambitious offshoots to date, taking on games giant Valve with a gaming store meant to rival the ubiquitous Steam store. The company launched a global beta of the Discord Store in October; they recently announced that starting in 2019, they will be establishing a revenue split of 90/10 for developers that are self-publishing titles on the store, a margin much friendlier to indie devs than the 70/30 split on Steam.

The company’s bread-and-butter remains its chat service, which brings voice and text communications to gamers looking to talk with teammates and fellow enthusiasts during and outside of gameplay. Discord isn’t the only service that offers this capability, but it is definitely one of the most popular with hundreds of millions of users coming to the app every month.

We chatted with CEO Jason Citron at our most recent Disrupt SF event, where he talked about the opportunities available in the online games sales market and what challenges the company had up ahead.

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Discord announces 90/10 revenue split for self-published titles on upcoming games store

Posted by | discord, epic games, Gaming, Valve | No Comments

After gaming chat app startup Discord announced in August that they were building out a games store, today, they’ve detailed that they’ll be pursuing a very competitive 90/10 revenue split for self-published titles in 2019. In addition, the company revealed that they now have 200 million active users on their chat app, up from 130 million users in May.

The announcement follows a storefront launch from Epic Games last week with an 88/12 revenue split. Valve’s Steam store had typically offered a constant 70/30 revenue split for all developers regardless of the revenues they were pulling in. The company recently announced that Steam would give a more favorable split to devs pulling in more revenue.

Discord called up some of their thinking in a company blog post:

Why does it cost 30% to distribute games? Is this the only reason developers are building their own stores and launchers to distribute games? Turns out, it does not cost 30% to distribute games in 2018.

Steam’s efforts are largely focused on holding onto big developers, but indie devs now have to balance what advantages they’re earning by establishing their central home on a platform filled with tons of titles that’s also taking a more substantial cut.

This leaves some room for Discord to attract the self-publishing indies, though it’s still an uphill battle for the company that’s up against some big competitors.

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Bunch scores $3.8M to turn mobile games into video chat LAN parties

Posted by | Apps, Bunch, discord, funding, Fundings & Exits, Gaming, HouseParty, openfeint, Recent Funding, Social, Startups, TC, Video, video chat | No Comments

The best parts of gaming are the jokes and trash talk with friends. Whether it was four-player Goldeneye or linking up PCs for Quake battles in the basement, the social element keeps video games exciting. Yet on mobile we’ve lost a lot of that, playing silently by ourselves even if we’re in a squad with friends somewhere else. Bunch wants to bring the laughter back to mobile gaming by letting you sync up with friends and video chat while you play. It already works with hits like Fortnite and Roblox, and developers of titles like Spaceteam are integrating Bunch’s SDK to inspire longer game sessions.

Bunch is like Discord for mobile, and the chance to challenge that gaming social network unicorn has attracted a $3.8 million seed round led by London Venture Partners and joined by Founders Fund, Betaworks, Shrug Capital, North Zone, Streamlined Ventures, 500 Startups and more. With Bunch already cracking the top 100 social iOS app chart, it’s planning a launch on Android. The cash will go to adding features like meeting new people to game with or sharing replays, plus ramping up user acquisition and developer partnerships.

“I and my co-founders grew up with LAN parties, playing games like Starcraft and Counter Strike — where a lot of the fun is the live banter you have with friends,” Bunch co-founder and CEO Selcuk Atli tells me. “We wanted to bring this kind of experience to mobile; where players could play with friends anytime, anywhere.” 

Bunch team

Atli was a venture partner at 500 Startups after co-founding and selling two adtech companies: Manifest Commerce to Rakuten, and Boostable to Metric Collective. But before he got into startups, he co-founded a gaming magazine called Aftercala in Turkey at age 12, editing writers twice his age because “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” he tells me. Atli teamed up with Google senior mobile developer Jason Liang and a senior developer from startups like MUSE and Mox named Jordan Howlett to create Bunch.

Over a year ago, we built our first prototype. The moment we tried it ourselves, we saw it was nothing like what we’ve experienced on our phones before,” Atli tells me. The team raised a $500,000 pre-seed round and launched its app in March. “Popular mobile games are becoming live, and live games are coming to mobile devices,” says David Lau-Kee, general partner at London Venture Partners. “With this massive shift happening, players need better experiences to connect with friends and play together.”

When you log on to Bunch’s iOS app you’ll see which friends are online and what they’re playing, plus a selection of games you can fire up. Bunch overlays group voice or video chat on the screen so you can strategize or satirize with up to eight pals. And if developers build in Bunch’s SDK, they can do more advanced things with video chat, like pinning friends’ faces to their in-game characters. It’s a bit like OpenFeint or iOS Game Center mixed with Houseparty.

For now, Bunch isn’t monetizing, as it hopes to reach massive scale first, but Atli thinks they could sell expression tools like emotes, voice and video filters, and more. Growing large will require beating Discord at its own game. The social giant now has over 130 million users across PCs, consoles and mobile. But it’s also a bit too hardcore for some of today’s casual mobile gamers, requiring you to configure your own servers. “I find that execution speed will be most critical for our success or failure,” Atli says. Bunch’s sole focus on making mobile game chat as easy as possible could win it a mainstream audience seduced by Fortnite, HQ Trivia and other phenomena.

Research increasingly shows that online experiences can be isolating, and gaming is a big culprit. Hours spent playing alone can leave you feeling more exhausted than fulfilled. But through video chat, gaming can transcend the digital and become a new way to make memories with friends — no matter where they are.

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Discord’s new game store rolls out to the rest of the world today

Posted by | discord, Gaming, TC | No Comments

When Discord first launched its new built-in game store just a few weeks back, there was one big caveat: it was available to only a tiny, tiny slice of its 150 million users; 50,000 of them, to be exact — all of them in Canada.

Today it’s going global.

Discord says that access to its store should be rolling out to the rest of the world throughout the day.

Discord’s move to become a store comes just weeks after Valve overhauled the chat system in Steam. While perhaps a coincidence, the timing certainly felt very “two-can-play-at-that-game.”

When you first start poking around Discord’s store, you might notice that… well, there’s not a ton there. Around 20 games, at first. That, says the company, is deliberate; whereas the competition might offer 10,000 different games, Discord is trying to frame its store as something closer to “a local bookstore” — if it’s on their shelves, it has essentially their digital stamp of approval.

At launch, it’ll sell:

  • Moonlighter
  • Frostpunk
  • Starbound
  • Masters of Anima
  • Celeste
  • Dead Cells
  • CrossCode
  • Omensight
  • Into the Breach
  • Battle Chasers: Nightwar
  • Red Faction Guerrilla
  • Spellforce 3
  • This is the Police 2
  • Hollowknight
  • Subnautica
  • The Banner Saga 3
  • Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Plus five “First on Discord” games: King of the Hat, Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption, Minion Masters, Bad North, and At Sundown. These are titles that Discord will have exclusive runs on for ~90 days.

Meanwhile, Discord is also globally overhauling its Nitro service. Previously available for $4.99, Nitro was mostly a way to let the power users and hardcore fans support Discord — it got you a few aesthetic perks like animated avatars, but that’s about it. Now $9.99, Nitro will include a rotating library of around 60 games. With titles like Brutal Legend, Guacamelee, FTL, de Blob and Super Meat Boy in the mix, they’re not the newest titles, but there’s a lot of great stuff in here.

And just in case Valve/Steam wasn’t annoyed enough: Discord is also rolling out its new launcher, which it says should be able to list and launch pretty much all of your games “regardless of where [they] were purchased.” Even if a game requires another company’s launcher to load.

Here’s what it looks like:

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Zendesk introduces support bot for Discord gaming community

Posted by | bots, Cloud, Customer Service, discord, Gaming, Zendesk | No Comments

The Discord gaming community boasts 150 million members and 46 million active monthly users, who spend their days chatting about games, finding people to play with and looking for advice on how to resolve issues. Up until now, game publishers have had to monitor public discussions looking for people who need help or relied on expert users to assist them, but that’s about to change with Zendesk’s new Discord support bot.

Zendesk VP of product and platform, Luke Behnke, says they count a fair number of gaming companies as customers, and they have been looking for a way to have more direct communication with Discord users right where they play. With the Zendesk-Discord integration, users can request help by typing /support, and then the nature of the problem. This activates the Zendesk bot and triggers the creation of a help ticket, paving the way for a customer service rep to work directly with a person having an issue.

Calling the Zendesk bot in Discord. Screenshot: Zendesk

Prior to this, the only way that the game publishers could use Zendesk to generate help tickets was through the traditional sources like email, texts or phone calls, which required their users to leave the flow of the game. This integration allows the publishers to let the customers come to them for help without leaving the community.

Behnke says his company has been talking to Discord, whose members generate more than 530 million messages a day, about creating an integration that would work for their users. “We worked with Discord on this and they have been testing it internally and giving us feedback,” he said.

Conversation with game publisher CSR using Zendesk-Discord bot. Screenshot: Zendesk

Of course, it requires people know that you type /support to activate it, but Behnke believes that if the integration works well, word will get around that this is a useful way to get support directly from the publisher without leaving Discord. He says his company sees this as a unique approach to customer service, one that the gaming publishers, who tend to be innovative, are particularly open to.

Future updates could include the ability to push messages to the community such as information on an outage, or for the bot to answer common questions without accessing a human CSR. For now, this integration is in early release. The company is still working out the kinks with publishers, but they hope to get it into full production by the end of the year.

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Discord is launching a game store

Posted by | discord, Gaming, Steam, TC, Valve | No Comments

Just a few weeks back, Valve moved into Discord’s turf a bit with a dramatic overhaul of Steam’s chat system.

Today, Discord is returning the favor by playing with the idea of selling games through its namesake chat platform.

The company says it’ll launch a beta of the game store later today, though it’ll initially be limited to a small slice of its user base (which now sits at 150 million users). More specifically, the beta will roll out to just 50,000 users from Canada at first.

It’ll be dabbling in game sales on two fronts: they’ll directly sell some games, while other games will be added perks for its Discord Nitro subscription service.

Whereas Valve has massively increased the number of games on Steam over the last few years by opening up to third parties through things like Steam Greenlight or (more recently) Steam Direct, Discord is pitching this as a more “curated” offering with a slimmer number of options. At least at first, they say they’re aiming for something that feels more like “one of those cozy neighborhood book shops” — which, on day one of the beta, translates to 11 games.

The games it’ll sell first:

  • Dead Cells
  • Frostpunk
  • Omensight
  • Into the Breach
  • SpellForce 3
  • The Banner Saga 3
  • Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
  • Hollow Knight
  • Moonlighter
  • This is the Police 2
  • Starbound

While 11 games may not seem like much, you can bet they’ll offer more than that in time. See that screenshot up top? You don’t dedicate an entire tab in some of your app’s most prime screen real estate unless you’re hoping to make it a key part of your business.

Taking things one more step forward, Discord is also getting into (temporary) exclusives — or, as it calls them, “First on Discord” games. While it doesn’t mention names and none will roll out with today’s beta, Discord says it’ll soon highlight select indie games that’ll be available only on Discord for the first 90 days-or-so after their respective launches.

Meanwhile, the company is also testing the idea of building up its premium subscription add-on, Discord Nitro, into a game subscription service. Whereas the $5-per-month service previously primarily got you a few mostly aesthetic perks like animated avatars, a special profile badge and bigger upload limits, the same 50,000 players mentioned above (or, at least, those on Windows) will get access to a rotating set of games.

The first games hitting the subscription beta:

  • Saints Row: The Third
  • Metro: Last Light Redux
  • Darksiders: Warmastered Edition
  • De Blob
  • Tormentor X Punisher
  • Dandara
  • Kathy Rain
  • GoNNER
  • Kingdom: New Lands
  • System Shock Enhanced Edition
  • Super Meat Boy

While many of those games aren’t exactly new (some of them are 5+ years old), a lot of them are really great games (I’ve lost days to Super Meat Boy) that not everyone has gotten around to playing. It’s a solid way to pique people’s interest in giving Discord a bit of money each month if the GIFs and badges weren’t quite enough.

Oh, and for good measure, Discord is making itself a launcher — that is, you’ll be able to sort and launch most of the games on your computer right from Discord, including games purchased elsewhere and even those, notes the company, that require another launcher to run. If that’s not a shot across the bow in Steam’s direction, I’m not sure what is.

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Discord’s Jason Citron to chat it up at Disrupt SF

Posted by | Apps, discord, Gaming, jason citron, Social, Startups, TC | No Comments

In September of 2013, Jason Citron hopped on to the Disrupt Startup Battlefield stage to pitch Fates Forever, a multiplayer online battle arena game for the iPad. Now, five years later, Citron is gearing up to join us once again on the Disrupt stage to discuss the stellar growth of Discord.

Though Fates Forever had all the components to be a great mobile game, users simply never took much interest. The company struggled to monetize, and like any good startup, the team began to reassess its own situation.

The conversation turned to communication, where the space contained a few players with lack-luster products.

“Can we make a 10X project?,” said CMO Eros Resmini, relaying the tale of the company’s pivot to TechCrunch. “Low-friction usage, no renting servers, beautiful design we took from mobile.”

That’s how Discord was born. The platform launched in 2016, and has since grown to 90 million registered users, and has raised nearly $80 million in funding.

Coming from the publishing side, the Discord team had a keen awareness of what gamers want and need: a clean, secure communications platform. Since launch, the team has launched features that let game developers integrate Discord chat into their own games, as well as video-chat and screen-sharing.

But the progress has not been without discord . The company shut down several servers associated with the alt-right for violating the terms of service, bringing Discord to the center of the on-going conversation around censorship and political bias.

That said, Discord has seemed to find its stride, forming partnerships with various esports organizations for verified servers.

There is plenty to discuss with Jason Citron at Disrupt SF, and we hope you’ll join us to check out the conversation live.

The full agenda is here. Passes for the show are available at the early-bird rate until August 1 here.

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Valve’s answer to Discord is now live for everyone

Posted by | chat, discord, Gaming, Steam, TC, Valve | No Comments

Just a month ago, Valve announced Steam Chat — an overhaul to its aging chat system, and the company’s answer to rapidly growing competition from apps like Discord. At the time, it was a beta limited only to those who were granted access.

Today it’s opening up to all.

As Devin put it when the beta features rolled out, the previous chat system “may as well be ICQ.” It was useful for a quick chats, but it felt much too limited for anything beyond that.

The new Steam Chat, meanwhile, takes a huge step toward being a modern chat offering. It groups contacts by the game they’re playing, shows whether or not they’re currently in-game or in a match, offers easy access to your “favorite” contacts and allows for big group chats and persistent channels. It supports inline media (GIFs! SoundCloud! YouTube!), encrypted voice chat and has both a browser-based client and a client built into Steam.

Will it kill Discord? Probably not.

While it might stymie the losses of the more casual players who might otherwise find their way over to Discord, it’ll be tough to sway anyone who has already come to call Discord home. Many Discord gaming groups have deep roots, with many of them having elaborate channel setups and relying on bespoke customizations like bots that help them schedule matches or raids.

If you want to check out the new chat system and already have Steam installed, just pop into Steam and tap the “Friends and Chat” button in the bottom right.

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Valve sets sights on Discord with updates to Steam Chat

Posted by | discord, e3 2018, Gaming, Steam, TC, Valve | No Comments

Discord has risen among the ranks of gamers as the most common choice for game-related communications. And it’s easy to see why: it works well and the competition is pretty dismal. But Valve is looking to keep users in-house with an overhaul of the chat options on its game platform Steam .

It’s a welcome change, one of many that Steam’s users have surely been asking for — the platform, while convenient in many ways, is also incredibly outdated in others. The friend and communications options may as well be ICQ, and let’s not get started on the browser.

Today’s news suggests that Valve has not failed to hear gamers’ cries. The revamped chat is very Discord-like, with text and voice channels listed separately, in-game details like map and game type listed next to friends and a useful quick list for your go-to gaming partners. There’s also a robust web client.

Voice and text chat is all encrypted and passed through Steam’s servers, which prevents the NSA competition from monitoring your squad’s tactics during PUBG games and griefers from tracing your IP and ordering a hundred pizzas to your door (or worse).

It’s long past due for a platform like Steam, but more importantly it lets them keep Discord in check. The latter, after all, could conceivably grow itself a game store or promotions page in order to subsidize its free services — and that would be stepping on Valve’s turf. Unforgivable.

That said, it’s far too late for Steam to steal away Discord’s users — it’s been adopted by far too many communities and the benefits of switching aren’t really substantial. But for people who have not yet installed Discord, the presence of a robust chat and voice client within Steam is a powerful deterrent.

It’s currently in beta, but you can request access here (web) and here (Steam). No word on whether they are developing a whole system of chat icons based on those wiggly little egg-people in the top image. (Please.)

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Discord partners with esports teams to launch Verified Servers

Posted by | Apps, discord, esports, Gaming, TC | No Comments

 Discord, the voice and text chat app for gamers, is today announcing a new partnership with a number of esports teams for the launch of Discord Verified Servers. Verified servers ensure that users know they’re communicating with an official source, similar to verified accounts on other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Read More

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