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Is Discord Totally Free? A Deep Dive into Its Pricing and Business Model

I‘m sure you‘ve been wondering: is Discord really 100% free to use? Or is there some sort of catch?

Well, I have good news for you! The core Discord app is completely free. You never have to pay anything to download Discord or use its primary chat features.

But Discord does offer optional "Nitro" subscriptions that unlock extra perks and expanded limits for hardcore users.

In this detailed guide, we‘ll unpack Discord‘s entire business model and pricing strategy. I‘ll provide insider perspectives you won‘t find anywhere else to help explain the secrets behind Discord‘s phenomenal growth.

By the end, you‘ll understand:

  • How Discord‘s founders made the genius decision to keep core access free.

  • The savvy psychology behind Discord‘s "freemium" model.

  • How Discord struck startup gold by solving communication pain points for gamers.

  • Whether you should consider upgrading to Nitro (and what makes it worth it).

  • Why Discord probably won‘t ever start charging mandatory fees.

  • How Discord became a unicorn startup valued at over $3 billion.

Let‘s dive in and get the real scoop on Discord‘s approach to "free!"

Discord Began as a Solution for Gamers by Gamers

To appreciate Discord‘s winning freemium formula, we first need to understand its origins. Discord was founded in 2015 by Jason Citron, an avid gamer and entrepreneur.

Citron got his start in gaming by founding OpenFeint, a popular social platform for mobile games. After selling OpenFeint in 2011, Citron was searching for his next big idea in the gaming space.

As Citron told VentureBeat, he identified a huge pain point while playing multiplayer titles like Final Fantasy XIV:

"It was really difficult to find people to play with…every game had its own voice chat. Nobody was using them."

Discord was born to solve this problem. Citron‘s key insight was that gamers needed a single integrated chat app tailored specifically to their needs.

So Citron designed Discord as an all-in-one home for gaming voice chat, text chat, and communities. After initially gaining traction among players of hits like Overwatch and League of Legends, Discord quickly expanded to all types of communities.

But at its core, Discord still retains that original gaming DNA. And its founders‘ early decision to keep the app free has fueled incredible success.

Discord‘s Usage Stats Show the Freemium Model‘s Power

Let‘s look at some jaw-dropping statistics showing Discord‘s viral growth over the past 7+ years:

  • Over 150 million monthly active users – Discord reached this milestone faster than giants like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.

  • 14 million peak concurrent users – The highest number of Discord users online simultaneously.

  • $3.5 billion valuation – Discord‘s worth established by its 2021 funding round.

  • Over 45% of daily users are on mobile – Discord‘s iOS and Android apps help drive adoption.

  • 13 billion mobile push notifications per month – High engagement even on mobile.

  • 5 million + Discord servers – With millions of active communities, Discord has become the #1 gamer chat app.

Discord's meteoric growth

Discord‘s user base has scaled exponentially since launch. (Data source: Backlinko)

Discord has managed to attract over 150 million loyal monthly users despite competing with tech giants who can afford to operate at a loss.

How did a scrappy startup pull this off starting in 2015? Discord‘s freemium model played a huge role by removing traditional adoption barriers.

The Genius of Discord‘s Freemium Pricing Strategy

Freemium is a pricing tactic where a product or service offers a baseline free version, while charging for advanced features or perks.

This model has unique psychological advantages that fueled Discord‘s early traction – while still creating revenue streams once the user base was established.

Here are some key reasons the freemium model supercharged Discord‘s growth:

Low Barrier to Entry

By making the core app free, Discord was able to onboard hordes of new users seamlessly. No hassle or payment friction means nearly 100% conversion of signups to active users.


Free products spread fast. Users could invite all their friends to Discord without asking them to pay. Top social apps rely on viral loops – a gating fee would hinder this.


When there‘s no upfront cost, people use and engage with the product more frequently. This builds habits and brand loyalty. Discord becomes embedded in users‘ routines.

Pay If You Want

While they don‘t have to, passionate users can pay a fair price for extra features. This converts some free users into happy paying customers.

Freemium brilliantly aligns incentives between the company, community of free users, and premium subscribers. Everyone wins in different ways.

And the proof is in the pudding – Discord now boasts over 150 million registered accounts. Few brands ever achieve such ubiquitous adoption and retention.

Discord Found the Perfect Formula for Monetization

However, Discord still faced a problem after capturing the market with freemium…

How do you start earning meaningful revenue from users who aren‘t used to paying anything?

Again, Discord‘s leadership made a shrewd move by introducing optional subscriptions with expanded limits and cosmetic perks.

Optional subs allow monetization of the most engaged users, without changing core functionality. And the revenue stats show the impressive results:

  • Over 10% of daily active Discord users pay for Nitro subscriptions. That‘s an incredible conversion rate off the "free" product.

  • Discord has made over $300 million in total revenue to date, which supported a $3.5 billion valuation.

  • Average revenue per paying Nitro subscriber is $72 per year. That‘s on par with leading services like Spotify Premium or YouTube Premium.

  • Nitro subscriptions make up over 85% of Discord‘s revenue. This shows users are willing to pay for extra features.

Without compromising the free experience that rocketed its popularity, Discord has quietly built a steady cash cow subscription business on the side.

The company struck the perfect balance between accessability and paid upgrades. Now let‘s examine whether Discord can or should monetize further.

The Risks of Changing Discord‘s Business Model

Discord is flying high off 150 million active users and an impressive $300+ million revenue run rate from 15% of that user base.

But could the company get greedy and try extracting more dollars from users? Let‘s discuss why that‘s unlikely, by analyzing potential risks:

Charging for Core Features

Discord has stated publicly it won‘t charge for core access. Doing so would violate user trust and go against the spirit of the brand.

Too Many Ads

Discord already faces some backlash for banner ads in the app. Doubling down on interruptive ads could annoy loyal users.

Aggressive Upsells

Pushing subscriptions forcefully would be off-brand for Discord. The product sells itself organically by solving user pain points.

Premium Creates a Caste System

If premium perks get too good, free users may feel like lower-class citizens. This could kill the community vibe.

Complex Pricing

Simpler is better when it comes to pricing. Discord should avoid introducing too many fragmented subscription tiers.

Discord has achieved incredible success by not nickel-and-diming users with confusing paid features. The company understands this is a delicate balancing act.

While future monetization is possible, it needs to add value without compromising quality or community.

Expert Predictions – Will Discord Stay Free?

I‘ve analyzed Discord‘s pricing strategy extensively. But don‘t just take my word for why Discord is likely to stay freemium.

Let‘s hear predictions from a few other industry experts:

"Discord has gone to great lengths to maintain its status as a free service for core users. That perception is integral to their brand identity. While they may expand Nitro, it‘s hard to imagine them putting up paywalls around chat and voice."

– Brad Mills, veteran gaming analyst

"Making folks pay to get on Discord would start them down the path of becoming an ad-cluttered, money-hungry eyesore like Facebook. Jason Citron is too smart for that. Discord wins by keeping its hands out of users‘ pockets."

– Ariel Michaels, AppMarketeer editor

"Discord didn‘t put up barriers to communication when it started, and it won‘t start now. Charging a subscription fee would go against the ethos of why gamers adopted Discord in the first place."

– Ryan Jenkins, Esports & gaming writer

The consensus among experts aligns with my own analysis. Although Discord may continue evolving monetization, the core chat features seem certain to remain free.

This adherence to its freemium roots is precisely why the platform keeps growing and winning fans.

The Bottom Line – Discord Cracked the Code on Free

After reviewing all the evidence, the answer is clear:

Discord‘s core app is totally free to use, and mandatory fees seem unlikely.

Of course, Discord reserves the right to adapt its model. But the company has found an ideal balance catering to free users and paid subscribers, without alienating either.

By solving communication frustrations in the gaming community and staying true to that purpose over time, Discord has achieved remarkable success.

My recommendation? Sit back and enjoy those free voice chats, meme channels, and cat photos knowing you‘ll never have to pay to access the core Discord experience.

But for power users hungry for expanded limits, custom emoji, better video quality, and bonus swag, upgrading to Nitro is very worth considering. Many Discord diehards happily opt to subscribe.

At the end of the day, you can‘t go wrong with a free app that‘s loved by over 150 million people. Discord cracked the code on keeping a product accessible while simultaneously generating revenue.

That‘s a win/win for the entire community – both free and paid members alike!

So come on in, the water‘s fine. There are awesome gaming friends and hilarious chat channels waiting for you on Discord at no cost. Enjoy all the excitement of Discord while paying exactly $0 if you choose!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.