Ruled by Discord

This post isn’t about the current state of affairs in the real world, though feel free to steal the title for your own post about the dystopian nightmare we’re living in currently.

No, this is a follow up to a poll I ran… a few months back at this point.

I did a post about The State of Voice in 2020 back in early March about voice software used during gaming, a follow up on a couple of past posts on this topic, which concluded with the traditional poll to get a sense of which voice software people were favoring these days.

The results were a lopsided victory for Discord.

When asked to specify their primary voice software package, there was no contest.

147 Responses to “What is your primary voice application?”

The Other responses were “Google Hangouts” and “Whatever someone else says we should use.”

Compare that to the results of the poll I conducted in 2012:

  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

That pre-dates Discord, which only kicked off in 2015, but it does show something of a shift.

Of course, neither poll is scientific and only represent the demographic of “people who read this blog and whose ad block software even allows the poll to be visible,” so isn’t provably reflective of the actual distribution of voice software usage out in the wild.

It is also impacted by, and reflective of, the downturn in traffic my blog has seen since that 2012 poll was taken, which happened around the my peak of popularity, such that it was.  So only 147 people responded in 2020, while 2012 saw exactly (!) twice as many responses, clocking in with 294.

And yet, the lopsided win for Discord still says something.  Discord is easy, cheap, and works.  When the instance group got back together for WoW Classic we went straight to Discord as our platform of choice.

Yes, that was, in part, because I already had an account.  But we all had Skype accounts as well, that being our preferred voice software back in the day, and Google Hangouts were a possibility as well, being the choice of the one-time Friday Night Strategy Game group.

Discord was just easy, has persistent group chat as well as voice, and has mobile clients as well.  I pay for a monthly channel boost subscription, which is supposed to get us better voice quality among other things, but we didn’t have any problem before I did that.

A Discord server basically gives us so many options over the alternatives that it just seemed like the obvious choice.

The second poll question asked which voice software options people used regularly.  It was a multiple select poll, so you could click on as many as you felt applied.  The results for that were… odd.

Responses to “What voice apps do you use regularly?”

The Other responses were, with one vote each:

  • meet.jit.si
  • Google Hangouts
  • MS Teams
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Nothing regularly but not nothing ever

Discord was still on top, but did not get as many votes as it did in the first poll.

There are a few possible explanations for this.  Some people may have only votes on the first poll.  Some may have felt that the second poll implied “aside from your primary” chosen in the first.  And some people may have only voted in the second poll, feeling that they did not have a primary.  Some combo of those, plus whatever else, may be in play here.

And it does show, again, a move away from what were the traditional voice hosting platforms back in the day, Ventrilo and TeamSpeak, at least in the “reads this blog and votes on polls” demographic.

  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 3
    • Google+ 1
    • ooVoo 1
    • Tin cans and string 1
    • Steam Integrated, Cellphone, Smoke signals 1
    • But I will start to use voice for the first time when SOEmote starts. 1

I think I can spot the Bhagpuss answers in the “other” field on a couple of these.

So Discord “wins” I suppose.  I am still not sure about their business model.  They gave up the idea of competing with Steam as a game selling platform a while back.  But the proliferation of Discord servers… is there any sizable company or group that doesn’t have at least a few dedicated to it… seems to indicate that they have the attention of a lot of people.

Anyway, that is my little report on the state of voice in gaming right now.  We’ll see if I get back to it in another five years or so and who will be dominant at that point.

11 thoughts on “Ruled by Discord

  1. selfishpaladin

    I like their model for boosting servers that they make more money as the server gets bigger (and is an effective communications mechanism). I wonder if one day they are just going to be bought some monolith and users will just with start getting spammed with ads or suddenly our conversations are all available in real time to advertisers including history.

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  2. bhagpuss

    I definitely voted but I can’t really remember what I put, although that SOEmote comment certainly sounds like me. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken on voice chat but I’ve used it to listen fairly often. I installed Teamspeak for myself and Mrs Bhagpuss a few years back and we used it for World vs World when we were taking it quite seriously. I found it actually made me play worse, though, so I stopped after a few weeks.

    When EQII still had battlegrounds they had integrated voice that was on by default and I quite liked that. EQII still has integrated voice and I assume someone uses it because they did scheduled maintenance on it only this week. I might actually try it and see who’s there. I don’t have a mic any more though so I’ll only be listening.

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  3. Redbeard

    Well, since your poll I’ve installed and used Discord, and I agree that it works. Not the most user friendly design –at least until you’ve mastered the learning curve and then suddenly everything clicks– but the quality of sound is better than Skype (it’s at least as good as Teams) and doesn’t have the footprint Teams has. It’s also less prone to dropouts than either Skype or Google Hangouts, although the latter might be due to my usage at work, because the extra VPN hoops I have to go through might be causing issues with Hangouts.

    I have to wonder if Discord is going to be picked up by one of the big three: Microsoft, Amazon, or Google. If I’d a guess, it would be Amazon which would then pair Discord with their Twitch platform.

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  4. Naithin

    @Jason Mitchell: Hah. A combo I used myself for many, many years. (Although sometimes IRC + Ventrillo.)

    Although really — that combination as described pretty much *is* Discord… Once you tweak the settings a wee bit around the text display etc, at least.

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  5. Nogamara

    Since that first poll started I ramped up EVE time a lot and that means I’ve used Mumble ~5 out of 7 days of the week for the last few weeks, and Discord not even once, as I had voted (iirc). Also BigBlueButton once a week now… Stuff can change very fast :P

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  6. Archey

    I tend to take the path of least resistance. I have Discord in a browser on my desktop, but for voice I use my phone sitting on the desk. I figure one less thing to install, and I don’t need a separate microphone.

    I may be old, but I still think that Discord single-handedly killed both IRC and TeamSpeak/Ventrilo/etc. I know IRC will persist among the diehards but I can’t see it pulling in any new blood ever again.

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  7. Anonymous

    selfishpaladin, If you think discord isn’t logging everything tiny piece of data they think they can even remotely profit from, you are naive. There is nothing stopping them from selling parts of that now, and I would be blown out of my seat if they are not.

    That isn’t why I stoped using it unless forced to though. It was them shoving ads all over the place for games and streams or w/e else. Also the service drops out for entire days sometimes, nothing can be done about it, but the Teamspeak server I use run on laptop sitting under my network equipment.

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  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Anonymous – Every online service is collecting your data. Just a fact of life. But the rest of your statement… ads and no service… is completely at odds with my experience with Discord over the last two years.

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  9. Telwyn

    My friends and I use a combination of in-game voice and Discord. We use in-game voice (notably Battle.Net for WoW or DDO’s in-game voice) over Discord because not everyone we play with uses Discord. We use Discord for tabletop roleplay and for sharing silly pics with one another. There isn’t one platform that covers all possible combinations of the people we play with, and forcing everyone to use a single platform isn’t our style. We’ve used Skype and Teamspeak in the past so Discord certainly has conquered over those platforms (for gaming, I use Skype 5 days a week for work).

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  10. Pingback: Voice and Video chat in online gaming | GamingSF

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