For regular users of the chat program Discord, monetization of the platform began a potentially worrying trend when the company announced the server subscriptions feature in December, which would let server owners introduce subscription plans in exchange for unique roles, perks, and benefits, all with a 90/10 split of revenue between server owners and Discord.
Those fears may have been well founded, as product manager Derek Yang has announced that the server subscription feature set is expanding, with new features for subscribers of a server and additional tiered pricing for those who want to buy in to the whole program.
The opening salvo of server subscriber-only content is the beta launch of a media channel feature, which will let chat members of certain subscription tiers access exclusive content like “early access to […] behind the scenes content drops, bonus pics, and the cherry on top: exclusive memes and wallpapers.” Later down the line, additional monetization will be open to certain tiers of server owner, such as a storefront for digital purchases like wallpapers and guides, or a purchasable premium role that will grant buyers access to otherwise gated channels and perks.
Of course, accessing these features will cost server operators money, which is where the newly launched tiered pricing comes in: The functionality of server subscriptions will be limited based on which of the four “tier templates” Discord server runners buy, with prices ranging between $4 and $10 a month.
Yang talks up these features as a way to pamper subscribers “like never before” and earn money for running a community, which in turn can be re-invested into their Discord server. He even points out a success story testimonial provided by Valorant streamer Woohoojin, whose Club Banana server earns him $16K a month, though to Woohoojin’s credit, he also asks people to subscribe only if they have the money to do so.
These new monetization tactics are generating plenty of concerns among users, such as the potential for server owners to abuse these features and the possibility of Discord opening up more monetization floodgates. Of course, the opposite argument is that these are not dissimilar to Patreon supporters helping to fund YouTube creators, artists, or independent MMO journalism sites, and that none of these new functions is compulsory. Still, this newly revealed plan might raise some users’ hackles – especially in light of increasingly anti-user policies enacted by Twitter and Reddit as well as traditional MMO forums being shuttered in favor of third-party comm platforms.