Discord looks to boost gaming revenue by ditching its long time ad-free stance

In context: Since its launch in 2015, Discord has remained one of the few platforms to shun typical online advertising models. In 2021, CEO Jason Citron said the advertising favored by its peers was too intrusive and instead focused the company on creating products that users would want to buy. It appears those days are gone.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Discord will begin in-app advertising within the coming week. The decision abandons the platform’s long-time stance against using paid advertisements and promotions. The change is part of the company’s plan to boost gaming-related and Nitro subscription revenue. However, as described, the promotions don’t sound too intrusive.

Discord plans to run paid promotions called “Sponsored Quests.” The platform will present these in cooperation with video game makers. Sponsored Quests will offer users in-game or in-platform gifts for completing various challenges as they play with their Discord friends and viewers. Once complete, those viewers can set out on similar “quests” to earn rewards. The model is reminiscent of last year’s May the 4th Discord promotion, where Fortnite players who shared their screen with at least one voice user while playing the game won Star Wars-themed cosmetics.

Despite the campaign’s benign-sounding nature, initial responses to the announcement were not favorable. Meghana Dhar, a technology adviser and investor, worries that embracing the new advertising model could alienate some of Discord’s user base. Dhar said the company’s quick pivot from its commitment to an ad-free service to one that uses paid promotions could negatively impact levels of trust across the user base, driving them to alternative solutions.

Discord has stated that users can turn off the promotions in Settings, which is more than most other platforms allow. Whether this privilege is limited to Nitro subscribers remains to be seen.

Sources close to Discord say the company wants to hire 12 sales team members to support the new advertising model. While that may sound like great news for those looking to break into the gaming and social platform industries, the news comes on the heels of the company laying off 17 percent of its staff earlier this year.

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