Still not buying it, sorry.
Look, I like Phil Spencer. He seems to be an honest guy, he seems to be down to earth and earnest, and it looks like he really does care about gaming. He has done an excellent job so far of turning the Xbox brand around from where it was following the launch debacle, and the future of Xbox looks bright with him at the helm.
Which is why it is doubly jarring when we get some PR speak bullshit from him. Which is exactly what happened recently- speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Spencer talked about Microsoft sharing Xbox Live engagement numbers over the install base for Xbox One, and his answer was the worst kind of PR spin.
“The reason I focus our team, I focus the studios we work with, I focus the company and Microsoft on our monthly active user number – and I get some pushback sometimes if I’m just trying to dodge a PlayStation 4 vs. Xbox One number – I will say over and over the core of our strategy is to drive more and more engagement on Xbox Live, which means more people playing games, which means more games get sold for our partners and our customers are more happy. And that is the total focus,” Spencer said, in response to the question about not sharing sales numbers.
“The last number we announced was 48 million monthly active users… And certain people say that’s a cop out that we focus on the monthly active users. I would like to say it’s actually more risky than install base. Install base always goes up. Monthly active users, actually, year-over-year can go down if people are less engaged on Xbox.
He added that this also has to do with how Microsoft approach their development partners, and how they use engagement numbers as a metric to pitch to them rather than hard sales numbers- a strategy that he feels is best if transparent.
“I don’t want people to start painting a strategy onto us that everything we’re doing is about selling you an Xbox console because that’s not actually what we’re trying to do,” he said. “So then I kind of feed the wrong view into the business and what we’re trying to get done if I play into a number that’s actually not a number that we use to drive our strategy or our focus on delivery of games. So I know certain people will say, “Oh, that’s PR speak and he’s just a suit and he’s kind of walking around it.” I will say, fundamentally, how many people we can get on Xbox live – we just announced Minecraft coming to iOS and Android connected with Realms, that’ll be more Xbox Live customers coming in – having those people engaged on the service buying games is the fundamental part of the strategy, whether they’re on Windows, Xbox, or, frankly, on other devices.”
I’m not sure I buy any of this- although he has a point, there is no reason Microsoft couldn’t share sales numbers in addition to engagement numbers. They are hiding the numbers to mask the extent of the PS4’s lead over the Xbox One, plain and simple.