Steam vs. Discord: The Battle To Come

written by Fyren



It is no secret that Discord has rapidly become one of the most successful and widely used communication platforms among PC gamers of all varieties. In recent months though, following significant updates to the platform and Discord’s own press releases, it has become clear that providing a great communication platform is not their only goal. With their recently added games tab syndicating news from the games that you and your friends have been playing, to the incredible amount of user data they have collected, it is clear that Discord is aiming to be a hub for gamers.


In one such press release just a few days ago, Discord announced that it plans to open a digital games storefront, akin to Steam, directly within their already popular software client. In their statement the company seemed to be aiming directly at Steam, a digital store that has received many criticisms from consumers in the past few years. One of the more standout pieces of criticism is that Steam no longer curates their platform, allowing any game of any quality or description to be sold on their service. Discord, in contrast, said that they will “be launching a curated game store experience similar to one of those cozy neighborhood book shops”.




I find the timing of this announcement to be fascinating, as not too long ago Steam updated their client’s communication features with a slicker and more modern look that shows some obvious influence from the design of Discord. Personally, I have found very little reason to actually use the new Steam communication features. Now, with Discord aiming to get into to Steam’s niche, it seems that these two companies intend to have a bit of a back and forth war.


As a digital store for games, Steam has lacked any real competition for a long time. Discord may finally be able to provide that competition in this market. Why do I think Discord will succeed where so many others have failed? Simple: user base. The number of active users on any given platform is the number of users that platform can direct marketing towards. Steam boasts 125 million active accounts according to the most recent data I could get my hands on. Discord’s explosive growth since its launch has seen its user base just pass 130 million active users. With those sort of numbers, and the promise of a better experience for consumers, Steam may want to put on their brown pants.

“Piracy is almost always a service problem” – Gabe Newell

So, Discord wins the numbers game, but selling games isn’t quite that simple. There is a bit more to this equation. Even though a service like Twitch has a large user base, their software client and accompanying game sales through Amazon, has not been nearly as successful as the number of users tuning in to gaming live streams might have indicated. So, what does Discord need to do to make sure that this opportunity is not squandered? I’d say they should take a page from the gospel of Gabe Newell himself. Specifically when he said “Piracy is almost always a service problem”. Steam really integrated this quote into their approach to selling games, and it has been a huge part of their success. They have focused on the service that Steam provides, not just in providing a product. Trading cards, Achievements, Friends Lists, Communities, Game Hubs; all of these things are part of that service oriented approach. This provides an incentive to consumers to buy a game from Steam rather than anywhere else. Discord needs to integrate this entire experience into their approach as well, but in their own way and with their own flair. If they can nail the service part of this approach, they stand a real chance at not just making this new venture work but exceeding everyone’s expectations, just as they have done previously.


There has been no word on when this new store will be available to the public, but it is likely that the feature will be rolling out to subscribers of Discord’s Nitro service first.

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