It’s all about how many players you have according to Spencer.
This week was a big one for the video game industry with next generation system launches for both Sony and Microsoft, the latter releasing their Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. We were here 7 years ago with the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, but nearly a decade later, we are in very different places. One of those ways is in how the two are tackling the video game business. While Sony’s model has not changed and is still laser focused on their systems, Microsoft has expanded to being more software and ecosystem driven. Phil Spencer even goes as far as to say it’s not about units, but the players.
Spencer did a longform interview with The Guardian and when questioned about the reasoning for why Microsoft no longer reports hardware sales numbers despite Sony and Nintendo still doing so, he said he didn’t want the brand to be focused on unit sells, even going as far as to say even if the Xbox Series X/S outsells the PS5 he still wouldn’t release any numbers. He says that he wants the division to be focused on the overall number of players in the ecosystem that they have steadily created as a whole.
“I know it seems manipulative and I’ll apologise for that,” he says, “but I don’t want my team’s focus on [console sales]. The primary outcome of all the work that we do is how many players we see, and how often they play. That is what drives Xbox. If I start to highlight something else, both publicly and internally, it changes our focus. Things that lack backwards compatibility become less interesting. Putting our games on PC becomes a reason that somebody doesn’t have to go and buy an Xbox Series X. I’ll hold fast to this. We publicly disclose player numbers. That’s the thing I want us to be driven by, not how many individual pieces of plastic did we sell.”
Spencer recently recalled the Xbox brands rocky times after the lackluster performance of the Xbox One launch, which most likely had a big role in this pivot to software over hardware. It was said that the launch of the Series X and Series S has been the largest in Xbox history, but considering the philosophy Phil outlines above, it’s hard to know exactly what that means. Either way, it seems as if Microsoft has found a direction that works well for them.