Culture Hack

Culture Hack

Let’s Get Connected: How Microsoft Purchasing Discord is Proof That Companies are Investing More Into Online Communities

Earlier this month, it was announced that Microsoft was in the preliminary stages of acquiring Discord — a social media platform that first became popular with gamers — for close to $10 billion. Founded in 2015, Discord has more than 100 million active users and, during a time when people needed common connection the most, people went to the platform for communication and unity through gaming. While there are a few other companies lining up to purchase the private held company, whose value was around $7 billion towards the end of last year, the move from Microsoft to throw its hat in the ring is telling of the shifted investment priorities. 

This purchase comes after a boom in the video game industry due to the pandemic, forcing big tech companies like Microsoft to expand in the gaming world. This new acquisition, however, is nothing really new for Microsoft when it comes to purchasing already existing online communities. In fact, the tech giant already owns the gaming developer that created Minecraft and ZeniMax Media — the parent company of some of the largest gaming studios. Including LinkedIn as a space for professionals and working people, Microsoft has invested quite a bit in online communities. But what exactly prompts the company to acquire these communities when there are social platforms for larger pools of people? 

Microsoft’s reasoning for buying Discord is to bring more connection to the gaming technology they already have. In the last few months of 2020 alone, its gaming department made $5 billion after the release of new consoles. There are rumors that the company has been developing the hardware and software to make space for the type of communication Discord makes possible. And by allowing users to connect on Xbox consoles, they’ll also be able to sync their devices through the world of gaming. Ultimately, Microsoft is buying into connection and community in a way that overrides the popularity of the seemingly staple social platforms. In focusing on one area of tech that they sell, they are creating a fuller using experience through such communication platforms. 

The purchase of Discord and the other platforms Microsoft now owns is not just investing in social platforms; instead, it is a movement to recognize the sub-cultural communities that the explosion of tech has created. Up until a few years ago, people who have participated in niche chat rooms have been seen as outsiders unable to connect with others in-person. But the rise of internet-based communication has proved that interactions online have just as much of an impact on users as any other interaction.

Despite the opportunity to create spaces of unity online, Microsoft and others that follow in its steps will face issues, most especially regarding the type of information being shared on these platforms. In 2017, white nationalists communicated via Discord to organize the hate-filled Charleston rally. Since then, the platform has instituted stricter content rules and has banned several alt-right clusters. But, the responsibility to stop hate speech long before it turns into hateful actions is on the executives of any community-based platform. While the tech giant will likely struggle in maintaining the safety of all parties using Discord, they are likely to benefit in their ability to connect and provide unity in that gamers and others who are able to gather will recognize their efforts.