Discord May Be Steam’s First Real Competitor in the Digital Distribution Market
Discord, the popular software service utilized most by video game communities, is working toward building a platform that sifts through the clutter of the overcrowded digital ecosystem.
The application, which houses 150 million gamers, announced in August that its new online store will sell games to customers, on a smaller marketplace than competitors like Steam. The company’s goal is to create “almost a local boutique bookstore experience that’s highly curated,” according to reports cited by CNBC.
Discord grew rapidly after opening its doors in 2015. Now, the company has focused on entering the digital distribution space as the market continues to grow. Gamers are now about to spend roughly $138 billion on games in 2018 alone, which is up 13.3% from the previous year. Market research performed by Newzoo has predicted that PC games will continue to bring in about a quarter of that revenue.
Steam currently dominates the PC market due to its immense selection and convenient UX. Ars Technica has estimated that nearly 23,000 games are on the platform, with Steam Spy reporting that more than 6,000 games have been added to the service in 2018 alone.
The number of games added to Steam does not appear to be declining, even as Steam becomes more stringent regarding what games the company accepts. Steam has offered to allow users to follow external curators, who are often YouTubers, for recommendations, but almost any user can qualify under that criteria. Discord, on the other hand, plans to offer highly curated games assembled by staff, before eventually allowing community input.
Steam offers low barriers to entry for developers who wish to get their games out to a wider community, which means heaps of content is of lower quality, which is a feature Discord is trying to avoid.
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Brendan Sinclair has noted, “For a company like Steam, it’s almost an impossible problem because there are too many worthy games being released to feature all of them appropriately.”
Discord’s digital storefront is live as a beta version in Canada at this time. The beta upgrades Discord’s subscription service, which beginnings at $4.99 a month, and offers customizations. The service is now set to include a section of nearly 100 games to download.
To compete with the emerging competition, Ben Decker has recently alluded to an upcoming curation model designed for the Xbox Games Pass. In an interview, he noted, “When we launched it, we thought an ever-increasing number of titles might be something that was really important to gamers.”
Curated services often take years to design. Spotify (SPOT) did not offer curation services until it acquired a small firm that was able to provide human-created playlists in 2013, which lead to the innovative discovery features.
Apple has continually voiced discontent regarding human curators for media products, citing worries “about the humanity being drained out of music, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft.”
Discord plans to utilize algorithms that aid in helping gamers discover new games on the platform — these picks have been pre-selected by the staff, who will also write accompanying reviews. Data regarding what games users’ friends are playing will also be provided in the guide selection.
Users may desire recommendations, as is customary. Though, the offering of vast selections of games remains a strong draw Discord utilizes regardless of the platform’s other features. Their unique approach may paint their future as Steam’s first real competitor.
Sinclair further stated, “Just like with Microsoft, if [Discord’s] approach works, I would not expect them to keep it smaller scale. That doesn’t mean they would abandon [curation] the way Valve seems to want to do. But there’s plenty of room to grow between those two extremes.”