Why Microsoft Doesn't Share Xbox One Sales Numbers

Phil Spencer explains why monthly active users number are a better indicator of the Xbox brand's health and viability.


In fall 2015, Microsoft announced that it would no longer share Xbox console shipment numbers in its financial reports, and would instead tout Xbox Live figures. Now, Microsoft's Phil Spencer has spoken up to say monthly active users is a "critical" data point for determining the health of the Xbox ecosystem, perhaps more than the number of consoles sold.

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He said during a briefing attending by GameSpot that people ask him if Microsoft's decision to no longer share Xbox One sales numbers is a result of not wanting to make a comparison against the hugely successful PlayStation 4.

"The answer is no," Spencer said.

Monthly active users means the number of people who logged into Xbox Live in the past 30 days and it counts not only Xbox One, but also Xbox 360 and PC. For Microsoft's latest quarter, it had 48 million monthly active users.

Spencer went on to say that Microsoft, in holding back Xbox One sales numbers, is not trying to hide anything. In fact, the executive said it is riskier to divulge Xbox Live figures, as these can go down on a quarter-to-quarter basis, while console shipment numbers can only increase.

"If I sold a console two years ago and now it's in a closet collecting dust, that's not good for the gamer, that's not good for the developers, and frankly, it's not good for Microsoft," Spencer said. "The nice thing about us selling consoles is your console install base will always go up. But that's not really a reflection of how healthy your ecosystem is. We focus on the monthly active user base because we know those are gamers making a conscious choice to pick our content, our games, our platform, our service. We want to gauge our success on how happy and engaged those customers are. We need to keep them happy."

He added that things like Xbox Live issues (which Microsoft faced recently) and stretches of time with no major new releases can negatively impact monthly active user numbers.

GameSpot also spoke directly with Spencer at the recent event. Check out some stories below, while a video interview is embedded above.

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