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Discord jilts Microsoft for Sony instead

It's almost like Bill Gates is getting used to rejection these days.

Microsoft's $12 billion takeover offer for the popular video game chat service Discord got denied.

For Redmond, it would have sat nicely alongside Xbox as it seeks to expand the perks of its Game Pass subscription service.

Where there is Discord: The communications platform originally for gamers now serves a much wider audience - with some unique demographics.  (Source: Alexander Shatov on Unsplash)
Where there is Discord: The communications platform originally for gamers now serves a much wider audience – with some unique demographics.
(Source: Alexander Shatov on Unsplash)

But the coronavirus has seen Discord, which lets people communicate by video, voice or text, expand from gamers to take in study groups, book clubs and dance classes.

With some estimates of its worth pushing $18 billion, the San Francisco-based platform is eyeing an eventual public listing instead.

And adding to Microsoft's blushes, it's now Sony's PlayStation, not Microsoft's Xbox, Discord is forming a relationship with.

Sony Interactive Entertainment "has made a minority investment as part of Discord's Series H round," writes Jim Ryan, Sony's president and CEO, in a blog post. Some sort of integration between Discord, with its 140 million users, and PlayStation will follow "starting early next year," he adds.

This could mean anything from a Discord app on PlayStation consoles to some looser forms of integration, like being able to connect Discord and PlayStation accounts together.

The betting currently tends more toward the first of these, in light of the amount of time the two companies are giving themselves. An app might be rolled out in a major PlayStation update in early 2022.

For Discord, all this keeps the chat platform free and able to form relationships with game consoles from a lofty place of powerful independence.

From Sony's perspective, this is the latest in a successful series of "huge investments to secure their dominant position in the console space," said video game reviewer Paul Hunter on Twitter.

These also include two investments in Epic Games: acquiring the Evo fighting games series, and (subject to clearing US antitrust review) buying the anime and manga streaming service Crunchyroll.

Sony also has backed Canadian games developer Jade Raymond (co-creator of Assassin's Creed).

Raymond is fresh from splitting up with Google in February, where she had spent two years working for its Stadia games streaming service, as a Google vice president. Now Sony is helping her open up a new game studio called Haven in Montreal.

Look to hear nothing but discords

Game enthusiasts are meanwhile greeting this as a big win for cross-playing across consoles.

And cross-play, interestingly, has historically not been something Sony's been that sweet on.

A series of 2018 emails between Sony and Epic now reveal just how firmly Sony dug in its heels to block cross-play for Fortnite, tweets the Verge's Tom Warren.

Meaning players couldn't pause a game on PlayStation, and pick it back up on their mobile.

This went down terribly, so maybe Sony has learned a lesson and changed its tune.

No use looking beyond the next Fortnite

The final result, it's emerged, is Epic agreed to pay compensation to Sony when PlayStation players finished their Fortnite games on another platform, like an iPhone.

This was three years ago.

But now Epic feels strong enough to start squaring off against Apple in an Oakland, California-based courtroom this week, about handing 30% of revenue over to the App Store.

Which Epic calls an "Apple Tax."

It's the first time Tim Cook ever has given evidence in a trial, which if his company loses, will disrupt the App Store's entire business model.

It all looks like a gradual shift in power away from the Microsofts and Apples, and toward the Discords and Epics instead.

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Pádraig Belton, contributing editor special to Light Reading

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