The State of Voice in 2020 with a Poll

Every once in a while the topic of voice chat with games comes up.  This time Skronk mentioned it.  And with that I wondered if it was time for another post about.  It was time in 2007 and again in 2012 and I think it is time again now.

I am always interested in voice, first because I work in a related industry and there is overlap in tech and people and second because my online gaming history extends back to a point where voice was not an option.  When I was playing Stellar Emperor back in 1986, I could be on the one phone line logged in or talking to somebody, but not both at once.  So I have seen things evolve from there to using the phone system at the office for comms (back when IT would allow such things on the corporate network) to early voice software like Roger Wilco, to the hosted comms era when any decent guild or clan rented a TeamSpeak or Ventrilo server, to the time of Skype and game integrated voice, through to today.

Back in 2007 I put up a poll that had the following results:

A simple poll from a simpler time

Ventrilo (which I typo’d on in the poll, which is totally on brand for me) was the top dog back in 2007, though it was early in the history of the blog so the pool of results wasn’t very big.  It was also the dawn of the game integrated voice using Vivox, so game integration was not that widely available (EVE Online, LOTRO, and DDO had it by then, but SOE games and WoW were a ways off still) which probably hurt its responses.

Skype was already four years old by then, but had added 5 person conferencing with the need of a server, so it was the voice platform of choice for the instance group back in the day.

There was also a mention in the comments of voice quality comparisons between Ventrilo and Team Speak, the two big dogs at the time.  I am not sure if that is even a concern in 2020, but it was one back in the day.

I came back five years later with a double poll post, the first asking what was the PRIMARY voice application people used.  That got the following results (tally/percent):

  1. Ventrilo – 73 / 25%
  2. TeamSpeak – 70 / 24%
  3. Mumble – 57 / 19%
  4. Skype – 35 / 12%
  5. I never use voice – 29 / 10%
  6. Game Integrated – 23 / 8%
  7. Console Voice System (Xbox 360/PS3) – 4 / 1%
  8. Other – 3 / 1%
    • I don’t regularly use voice at this time – 1
    • raidcall – 1
    • Steam – 1

This being the peak era of the blog, the poll got 294 responses.  In 2012 readership was still using Ventrilo and TeamSpeak, with Mumble not far behind, all server based voice platform solutions.  Skype also had some users, while game integrated seemed to have come along.  I think by this point it was part of WoW and fairly easy to use.

The second poll asked which voice applications people ever used.  It allowed multiple selections and gave the following results:

  1. Ventrilo – 207 / 27%
  2. TeamSpeak – 177 / 23%
  3. Game Integrated – 115 / 15%
  4. Mumble – 108 / 14%
  5. Skype – 87 / 12%
  6. Console Voice System (Xbox 360/PS3) – 40 / 5%
  7. I still never use voice – 14 / 2%
  8. Other – 8 / 1%
    • roger wilco 2
    • Google+ 1
    • ooVoo 1
    • Tin cans and string 1
    • Roger Wilco 1
    • Steam Integrated, Cellphone, Smoke signals 1
    • But I will start to use voice for the first time when SOEmote starts. 1

A lot more people used game integrated voice at least as a secondary options it seemed.  I was using Mumble for EVE Online, it being the Goonswarm platform.  Skype was still the choice of the instance group.  Google hangouts were a thing, and we even used that for our epic Civilization V game.

Also, I love the comment about SOEmote.  I am sure that must have been Bhagpuss.

Which brings us to today, about seven years further down the road.  Things have changed some.  Microsoft bought Skype and made it progressively worse.

Some games dropped integrated voice options.  EVE Online dropped the option as part of their March update two years back as part of their clearing of decks for the 64-bit conversion.  That got us the new chat server architecture which has had so much trouble over the last two years that CCP is probably glad they ditched voice and the complications that would have come with it. (Though only 0.4% of players used it, so maybe nobody would have noticed.)

And a new player has come along in the form of Discord.

This is pretty much what prompted this post.  Yes, there are some other additional players out there like Slack, but Discord feels a bit like a game changer.  I first gave it a shot with the 2018 Blaugust and have stuck around with it ever since.  It is light, easy to use, easy to manage, and has voice integrated… and is free.  So when the instance group reformed for WoW Classic we didn’t bother trying to remember our Skype login credential, heading straight for Discord.

The only other voice app I use is Mumble, which remains the Goonswarm comms choice.

So I suppose a new decade means it is time for a new poll or two.  So here, now, in 2020, what is your primary voice application? (Choose one)

And, just to emulated the 2012 poll, which voice applications do you use on a regular basis? (Choose all that apply)

This being the security age of the web, the two polls above may not appear if your ad blocker is on or if you have Firefox set to defensive mode.

The blog being back down in the 2007 range of popularity, I do not expect there will be a huge turnout.  But I will be interested to see how people respond.

I am especially interested if you use game integrated voice.  If you have a moment to pop into the comments and mention the related game or games you use it with, that would be great.

My answers are Mumble for the primary, because I am on it for every EVE Online fleet op, and  Mumble and Discord for the regular basis response.

18 thoughts on “The State of Voice in 2020 with a Poll

  1. Shintar

    My SWTOR guild is still on TS because our former GM hosts a server for us and it’s free. As a guild we only use Discord for text chat and I occasionally use it for other voice comms but in terms of quality and features I still find it inferior to TS for voice. Plus I’m always a bit suspicious of start-ups that offer ALL the things for free, because the money has to come from somewhere and you know it won’t last…


  2. bhagpuss

    It was indeed I who planned to start using voice for SOEmote. I actually remember giving that answer. And I did use it, too. I bought cameras with mics for myself and Mrs Bhagpuss and we did attempt to use them to talk to each other in game using the much-hyped, supposedly gamechanging new tech – only it didn’t really work.

    That was the end of SOEmote but a while later we both went through a brief period (several months) of using first Teamspeak and then Mumble (or was it the other way round?) in GW2’s World vs World. Contrary to everything everyone ever claims, however, I found it far more confusing than typing and my performance deteriorated because I spent more time trying to follow instructions and failing than I did paying attention to what was going on around me. I stopped but Mrs Bhagpuss carried on for a while. Then she stopped too and we have never bothered since.

    I have used Discord a handful of times for this and that. It’s probably the easiest both to set up and to operate. I’ve also used in-game voice now and again. I always had it on in EQ2 Battlegrounds (which I liked) before they shut them down. I had it on in The Secret World’s pvp too – I think that was in-game.

    Basically, if I play a PvP game that has integrated voice it’s likely I’ll use it. Sometimes it’s on by default anyway and sometimes it’s just a single key press, so why not? If it takes effort I don’t bother. I don’t believe I have ever used voice for PvE. I would if I still played with a regular group of people but back when i was doing that no-one used voice in the games we played. Mrs Bhagpuss and I, who play in different rooms, mostly type when we duo, or in the summer, when we have the doors open, we shout!

    As for the polls, I had to do “Other” for both. Could do with an option for both that’s a little less absolute than “I never use voice”, like “I only use voice occasionally and have no preference on brand”. Maybe something a bit shorter and sharper than that…


  3. zaphod6502

    We use Discord in our clan exclusively now even when a game has built in voice ops. We used to use TeamSpeak but the company locked us out of our own server and then tried to extort money from us to unnlock it. So that was the end of our TeamSpeak journey. Discord does everything we want and more anyway and the voice quality is better on Discord so it was no big loss.


  4. Redbeard

    Now, I want a quick clarification that we’re talking about only for gaming applications for both polls? My reason for asking is that I work remotely, so utilizing a voice app is pretty much how I talk to people in meetings, and I have to use a company approved one (naturally).

    That would obviously skew my answers if these polls were for voice apps in general versus voice apps for gaming purposes.


  5. Redbeard

    Skype for Business makes “normal” Skype look good. Just sayin’….

    Now we have to migrate to MS Teams. I will say that the codec is better than with Skype, but boy is MS Teams a memory hog.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. MagiWasTaken

    I used to use Skype and Curse a lot. At some point later I switched to Teamspeak3 as that didn’t put as much of a toll onto my wifi-connection as Skype did (and as nobody really used Curse at some point). Later Discord really did everything that every other service did. You could do private calls, group calls and share your own screen, as well as Voice calls and send data over (just like in Skype). You could also create your own server (like in TS3 but free) and there’s been all kinds of perks like roles and bots and whatnot, so that was really great, especially as a Music-Bot didn’t need a second TS-account and some programs to be open at the time.
    So, I mainly use Discord (mostly when playing together with others, but also as a messaging-device, or to organise stuff or just chat with people) and I rarely even use in-game-voice-chat-features like in League (for premades) when people don’t have Discord… but usually randoms in competitive games are just super toxic, have bad mics or they don’t speak english, so I mostly stick to Discord.

    Hope that helps. Cheers!


  7. Gaff

    Full disclosure–Wilhelm doesn’t use voice unless he has to. As I recall, when voice came around (whatever the app), most of us felt like it was a bit of a privacy invasion. I know my typing speed and accuracy went downhill as voice became more of an expectation rather than a novelty.


  8. Kaylriene

    I was big on Ventrilo from the start of my MMO time until 2016 or so – I used Teamspeak and Mumble once each, Skype was a big no way, and in-game voice the same, although I was once berated by a random matchmade party in APB’s voice chat.

    Once Discord came along, nothing else really made sense, to the point that even functions I used to use other tools for, like Facebook messenger, just rolled into Discord servers – one for WoW guild, one for FFXIV free company, one for our Blizzcon attendee group, one for local board gaming, etc – it’s just too good and flexible of a tool to ever go back to leasing a Ventrilo server from TypeFrag for $6 a month to just have voice chat twice a week.


  9. SynCaine

    Discord really is the best of both worlds now. Super easy to use for casuals, but also incredibly powerful for guild management with all the controls you have and the bots you can run. In Classic discord bots handle everything from raid signups to checking your raid performance post-raid. Other than not being aware of Discord, I can’t imagine why any person or guild would use anything else.

    (I wonder if Goons are still on Mumble because discord can’t handle the 1k+ people goons sometimes need?)


  10. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – “Other” is going to have to cover you. The poll is about the voice software you use and not about your behavior around voice software.

    @Gaff – I am not somebody who gets on voice comms and hangs out when I am not playing, that is for certain. I remember how much you enjoyed Spanky getting on and shitting up coms back in the days of Desert Combat.

    @fatherofdaughters – I wonder if this means less people get on voice comms or if I have just attracted a less social demographic over the years.

    I am a bit surprised that Ventrilo, the top pick in the past two decades, has faded so.

    @SynCaine – Goons stick with Mumble for a few reasons, including the need to slam a thousand people into it on demand for a State of the Goonion. But the primary one is security and user management. Mumble is hooked into the alliance authentication system, so if you get kicked from the coalition you lose access to everything, including voice, automatically. I don’t know if Discord could be so configured or, even if it could, whether it would be worth it.

    A lot of groups in the Imperium have Discord channels, but we get reminded every so often that those are not official channels and not managed by the alliance so we shouldn’t be using them for discussion of ops or other things that might provide useful intel to hostiles.


  11. Mailvaltar

    Mumble primarily, not because I particularly like it but because it’s what PanFam uses.

    Our little ArcheAge Unchained family uses Teamspeak as we have a friend’s server at our free disposal.

    Lastly, another group of friends (that only plays together like once per year) uses Discord.


  12. Mailvaltar

    P.S. I will say one thing about Mumble though: the ability to seperate a huge number of people into multiple sub-channels, so that the different groups can’t hear each other, but everyone can still hear the fleet commanders, is really great and I wouldn’t want to play EVE without that anymore.

    I don’t know about Discord, but I’m relatively sure that Teamspeak and Vent can’t do that and never could. Which would be another huge reason for using Mumble over those two.


  13. GnomeNecro

    I am back playing on the Coirnav TLP server in EQ and our guild uses Discord. For the last three years it has been Discord in all the guilds I have been in with a brief detour into TeamSpeak back in 2017 when our raid leader at the time swore that Discord was cutting out on him and insisted that TeamSpeak was “much better”, which was totally a problem with him and nobody else. But Discord has been nice because I made friends with a small group of people from that 2017 Agnarr guild that is much like your Instance Group, and we have our own little Discord server which has let us stay in touch the past few years. The Android Discord client also keeps me in touch with them during the day while I am at work, which I also enjoy.

    I also tend to not be in voice chat unless there’s a compelling reason, such as listening to raid instructions. There are certain social people who just like to hang out and chat as they do solo and group activity but that is not me. I do not enjoy having a headset on and I just tend to not talk a lot anyway. So many of the ones that do like to hang out in voice chat all the time seem to be major extroverts who prattle on about stuff I don’t care about. Listening to non-stop chatter just makes me tired.


  14. Yeebo

    I have an old PC that still has Vista on it that. Until recently you could still use TS with Vista by running an old version of the client. However, they stopped supporting that in 2020. I still use the old PC for LoTRO (and little else), so the once-a-week group I play with has switched to the in game chat until I get ambitious enough to upgrade to Windows 10 and reinstall all of my files (bleh). I have slowly switched most of my gaming to a newer PC, but LoTRO never migrated.

    For me personally, this also marks the end of my TS use. The client is paid up until this summer, but LoTRO was the last game I used it with. TS is nice, but not as nice as a free option that has a built in discussion forum (Discord). I also use slack a lot at work, but not for voice. I have not been in a single guild in the last year that uses anything but Discord. I am a bit puzzled as to the business model that is keeping TS afloat.


  15. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Mailvaltar – There is that channel hierarchy to Mumble. We have ops channels and they have command channels and there are leadership channels above those that can speak down into all the channels below as well as no chatter channels where you only hear people in command and the whisper option so you can speak in channel without it going up into the command channels as well as foreign language channels where a translator can hear commands but the channel only hears them speak the translation. It is quite the app.


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