Spencer sounds off candidly on a number of issues.
A lot of the times, people look at Microsoft’s reticence when it comes to sharing sales numbers for the Xbox One as a tacit and implicit admission of defeat- that Microsoft don’t want to explicitly acknowledge that they are being outsold by the PS4, and sharing sales numbers would put that truth out there.
It’s a theory that I have personally subscribed to myself, no matter how many times Xbox head Phil Spencer has insisted otherwise- the suspicious timing of just when Microsoft stopped sharing numbers lines up too neatly, you see.
But in a recent interview with Giant Bomb during E3 (site link here), Xbox head Phil Spencer made the clearest and strongest argument that he has made yet for why he personally feels that monthly average users is a more meaningful statistic for him and for how he conducts business, and why it has nothing to do with Sony beating them when it comes to the install base.
“When we talk about the health of the Xbox business right now, we talk about this thing called monthly average users,” Spencer said. “And I know there’s a lot of snark about that, that I’m just trying to dodge the install base number versus the install base for the PlayStation 4. But you know, I think anybody with a calculator can figure out they’ve sold more consoles than we have,” he admitted, rather candidly.
“But when I think about the health of our business, it’s how many people are playing games, connecting, buying games obviously, from a business standpoint. And I’ll get the Twitter comments, ‘thanks for putting all your games on PC, now I don’t have to buy Xbox One,’ and I’m more of the sentiment, ‘thanks for playing our games.'”
Spencer went on to add that he does not think that the PC market truly cannibalizes the Xbox market- he thinks that there is little to no overlap in those two spheres, and that the difference in between playing on a PC and playing on an Xbox is enough that there will always be a market for both.
“I think the experience of playing on consoles, there’s a uniqueness to that, I hit a button, a sound plays back, it boots up into the UI that’s meant to be controlled with a controller, it’s playing on my TV 10 feet away or so… that’s a different experience than playing on a PC, not better or worse, just different,” he said.
“As Microsoft, we care a ton about Windows, and gaming on Windows is something that my team is very focused on now. So I looked at the health of both of those, and said if we get into this world where as an Xbox business, we look at people playing games on Windows as detrimental to our Xbox business, we’re never going to do a good job. I lived through that, that was called Games For Windows Live.”
Spencer went on to outline the problem with Games for Windows Live. “The problem with GFWL was, the Xbox team looked at those Windows users and went, ‘hmmm, how can we get them to buy an Xbox?’ And I don’t want to be about that. So if I then put out ‘hey, how are we doing on a unit basis versus PlayStation,’ then I’m reinforcing something that isn’t how we’re doing business on a fundamental level. The fundamental level, this is about building the best games we can, and I loved our lineup this year and next year, and continuing to build out features on Xbox Live.”
I can certainly understand what he is saying now- and as a principled argument that he is making, it does answer my primary beef with his stance so far, which is, why not share both? But it sounds like Spencer is indicating that he is taking a hardlined, idealistic stand on this one.
And hey, he’s doing a great job, so if that’s the road he wants to take, he’s more than welcome to.