I could sit here and recount my feelings on the rumor that Microsoft is thinking about acquiring a few million gamer accounts by purchasing Discord for a supposed $10 billion dollars, but I won’t do that since The Eloquent Belghast has written a post that I 100% agree with (and +1000 points for his ‘nailed it’ title). As with anything gaming related, even the suggestion that The Great Satan of Tech — which I submit is a title completely up for grabs these days — might get involved in a particular fan-favorite product is enough to send people running for the hills with pockets full of ammo and canned beans. In this case, them thar’ hills have a name, and that name is Guilded.
In the early days of online gaming (particularly the MMO kind) once players got together in-game to form a guild, they turned to the community products that were available to them at the time to stay in touch outside of the game. That usually meant threaded forums which could be opened and operated for free or for very little money. Seeing a business opportunity to cater to the obsessive-compulsives as well as to guilds who were extremely hardcore about their membership and coordination, several sites sprung up that offered the whole guild experience: forums, calendars, live chat, ranks and permissions, and file hosting, all under one roof. What they couldn’t offer at the time was live voice chat, but that hole was quickly filled by products such as Ventrillo, Teamspeak, and Mumble. This one-two punch of community was what we subsisted on for years, but the problem was that while this bifurcated tech worked, it didn’t work as well as it could have had the fixed word and spoken word been housed under one roof. That’s when Discord came in. It combined a scant few features from guild sites with integrated voice communication, and then added features like automation via bots and live streaming.
Discord is an awesome tool that has attracted a massive amount of users, so it’s no wonder Microsoft (or someone else) would be looking to make a purchase. Although it might seem like a strange target of acquisition for someone like Microsoft, since they have a bunch of smart people working for them who could replicate Discord (I mean, Teams, Skype, XBOX Live, etc. all have parts of what Discord does), it would make sense that it’s the millions of users who have hitched their guild’s wagon to Discord that Microsoft (or someone else) is after. And being considered a commodity does not usually go over well with most people (depending on who is doing the selling and who is doing the buying, of course).
Tech cycles are weird because it always seems that when some tech gets big and popular, there’s always an upstart who wants to use that against them and market themselves as smaller, more intimate, and not a sell-out like That More Popular Option. That’s kind of where Guilded is right now.
Guilded starts where Discord ends. Anyone can create a “server”, invite users, assign permissions, and use those permissions to set access to live chat channels and voice communications just like they can with Discord. Beyond that, Guilded offers the following:
- Calendars for your organization’s events.
- Live streaming of desktop and applications.
- Scheduling for members, so folks can enter their availability and coordinate with others.
- Dedicated announcement channels.
- Todo lists of stuff, because why the hell not?
- Document repositories if your org generates a lot of paperwork.
- Media channels which allow for the upload of pics and video, presented in a nice mosaic pattern.
- And the triumphant return of guild forums.
As you can see above, Guilded offers all of this for free-as-in-beer. Their voice transmission runs up to 256kbps, and desktop/game streams can be pushed out in 720p, 1080p, or source resolution either at 15, 30, or 60 fps. That is more on par with a baseline Twitch stream than a free community server. One interesting side-note is that all of these channels can be shared with folks outside of the server, meaning you can share your calendar, todo list, or live stream with folks who aren’t part of your Guilded community. And honestly, the comeback of fully-threaded forums is a massive selling point; I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen folks wishing that Discord had something more permanent than live, fast-scrolling chat.
Honestly, I am not trying to sell folks on Guilded because as gamers, we have been down this road dozens if not dozens of dozens of times and it almost always follows a traditional pattern. I didn’t just recount the lineage of online gaming group meeting places to sound smart; I did it to illustrate how many different platforms have come and gone over the years. These platforms aren’t just places for people to hang out; they become repositories for a community’s identity. Many communities have hundreds of users spread out over dozens of channels filled with conversations and images that make up a community history. As cool as it is that Guilded offers 1080p streaming or 256kbps voice communications, that’s pointless when you realize that five years of memories are going to get left behind in Discord if an org decides to migrate away from that platform. Back when G+ was announced, a lot of friends on Twitter and Facebook asked “why do we need another social media platform?”. I remember trying to drive a decision on a voice comms platform for our active (at the time) Guild Wars 2 group, with some folks preferring Vent, some preferring TS, and some preferring Mumble. To this day some people refuse to leave their old voice comms in favor of Discord because regardless of feature set, people get attached to what has worked for them as what continues to work for them. In the world of tech, bigger, better, faster, or more feature-full isn’t always enough to win converts, especially in a case where a shifting a whole community requires a consensus and results in leaving a group’s history behind. As these tools (Vent and TS, Discord and Guilded, and event social media platforms) only provide benefit to groups of individuals, if we can’t get our groups to make the move, then the platform has no value.
My Star Citizen group had a discussion the other day about Guilded, and the overwhelming sentiment seemed to be that most everything about it would be beneficial to the group. They plan weekly events, and Discord has no good way to handle those aside from offering a chat channel with limited posting ability that someone has to prune of old messages once the event has passed. There’s no good way to share media associated with the events aside from posting it in another, generic chat channel. But there was no talk of actually moving because there’s so much stored in Discord right now that it’s hard to abandon it just for an official calendar and some other perks. Even though the whole package that Guilded offers seems to be overwhelmingly positive, with or without the impending sale of our Discord data to a MegaTech Corporation, getting friends and collogues to jump is sometimes a very hard sell.
What’s up in the air right now is what Discord is going to do or will be able to do as a result of this whole situation. The sales rumor has gotten a lot of people to take a hard look at Guilded; while I don’t think Discord is going to become a ghost-town now or ever, that people are taking a competitor seriously should mean that Discord steps up its game to at least offer features that approach what Guilded is doing. Adding forums would be a great start. Having a dedicated media channel would be another. And the calendar feature wouldn’t be unwelcome. Some would crow that they’re trying to follow in Guilded’s footsteps, but I think Discord could brush that off pretty easily considering how overtly Guilded is trying to trade on Discord’s uncertainty at the moment. It remains to be seen if the rumor is true, though, and it could mean a quiet period as they prepare for sale, a scramble to reach some kind of parity with a scrappy up-and-comer, or breath a sigh of relief by gaining access to Microsoft’s deep pocketbook to expand to meet community demands.