Discord Is Getting Ads This Week. Here’s What That Means For You

Discord Is Getting Ads This Week. Here’s What That Means For You

What’s the quote? You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself something something? Discord will implement ads this week. Let’s talk about how it’s going about this, and you may decide for yourself whether that Dark Knight quote applies or not.

Per reporting from The Wall Street Journal and Ars Technica, Discord will start showing users ads this week. The ads are part of its new Sponsored Quests programme. The ads currently aren’t intrusive, but produce a pop up that can be purchased by games publishers as a marketing vector. The pleasant bonus (for now, at least) is that users can turn the ads off if they want.

Discord announced its new ad programme in a blog post in early March. The idea in these early stages is that Sponsored Quests will incentivise PC players to stream games to their friends through Discord for predetermined periods in order to receive special in-game unlocks. Ads will be targeted and served according to user age, location, and gameplay. Discord is selling this as a form of direct marketing — potential customers being organically sold on new games by the people they trust the most — their real-life friends and family. Considered this way, it certainly sounds insidious, but that’s only because it is.

Discord tested this functionally last year in a partnership with Lucasfilm Games and Epic Games. Players could stream 15 minutes of Fortnite to their friends and get Star Wars-themed items in-game as a reward. According to Discord’s CEO and co-founder Jason Citron, he hopes that eventually, “every game will offer Quests on Discord.”

Hang on, hasn’t Discord always been against ads?

That’s right! In years past, the company said that its preference was to keep ads off Discord because it felt they could be intrusive. Clean and clear lines of communication were, at that time, a greater priority.

The company also stood on a platform of being careful with the user data it had collected. As Citron told NPR in 2023, “We believe that people’s data is their data and that people should feel comfortable and safe to have conversations and that their data is not going to be used against them in any way that is improper.”

Discord is now effectively attempting to skirt around this by implementing ads in a way it feels do not come across as intrusive, like a pop-up. As with anything related to ads, your mileage will vary substantially (just ask anyone reading this very website about all the ad material. We know it’s a hassle, and we appreciate you). The ability to switch the Sponsored Quests off in the app’s options will be a welcome one for many, I’m sure. The question then becomes, how long will it be before it becomes a pillar of Discord’s fiscal strategy and it revokes that option entirely? There’s a reason you can’t turn off the majority of online ads without an ad blocker — advertisers know that if you can, you will

Rivers of gold

Sponsored Quests will become Discord’s third primary revenue stream. Currently, it offers its Nitro subscriptions to power users who want to kit out their servers with custom emotes, high-quality video streaming, larger upload sizes, and assorted festive bunting. There’s also the recently added Discord Shop, which sells avatar decorations and profile themes similar to Steam’s Points Shop.

Despite this, it seems Discord has struggled to make money. According to Ars and the WSJ, the company still isn’t profitable. The WSJ reported that Discord makes around $US600 million in rev each year, has raised over $US1 billion in funding and supposedly keeps around $700 million in cash. As it sought to tighten its belt, Discord made around 17% of its workforce, some 170 workers, redundant in January of this year.

If you want the answer to the question of why Discord backflipped on ads, the above is the cleanest and clearest you’ll find. It’s struggling to make money, and ads will help it do that.

For now, the company appears to be taking a gently-gently approach, but it remains to be seen how this strategy will be received, and how it will evolve in the future.


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