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Microsoft: Xbox Live active user numbers are a better guide to the health of the Xbox system

Microsoft has decided to no longer reveal just how many Xbox One or Xbox 360 consoles it ships or sells to gamers. However, Xbox division head Phil Spencer claims that revealing the number of active monthly Xbox Live users is a better way to show the health of the Xbox division as a whole.

Chatting with GameSpot, Spencer denied that Microsoft no longer wants to reveal Xbox One shipment numbers because they don't want to compete with the numbers of Sony's PlayStation 4 console. In fact, he says it's actually a risker move for Microsoft to reveal monthly Xbox Live user numbers, because they can go up and down, while cumulative hardware shipments can only go up.

"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."

During the fourth quarter of 2015, Microsoft said there were 48 million active Xbox Live users, up from 39 million in the previous quarter. That includes users who access the service on the PC in addition to Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners.

Source: GameSpot

51 Comments
  • This actually makes sense.
  • Definitely, I don't think much of the profits would come from the hardware sales
  • Of course, it makes sense. You are in the spin room.  A room we wouldn't be in if Microsoft were ahead in sales. Then he would simply say, "We are selling more than anybody else. Check the sales numbers." No spin necessary. 
  • Because everything is true in hypothetical situations.
  • When the 360 was outselling the PS3 they were more than happy to talk about sales numbers. When sales numbers were still close between XBOne and PS4 they also talked about numbers it's only now that PS4 outsells them about 2-to-1 (according to other sources, since Microsoft won't release any numbers) that they've changed how they "feel" about numbers. It's safe to assume they would still talk numbers if it was close or they were outselling Sony. 
  • I could not possibly disagree with you more. Why do I say this? Because let's look at it this way. Who wins the console war if a gamer buys both consoles? NEITHER company. Because they both got money from the gamer. But if said gamer logs more time in one console than the other, THAT'S who is winning the war. Point? Oh yes, I have both consoles. But my PS4 hasn't been used for almost three months, since the last time I played Destiny, which really I bought to play on PS4 because my friends clamored on and on about how much better the PS4 was because of its graphical advantage. As opposed to my XB1? Yeah, I use it everyday. Recently I've been gaming with said buddies who ALSO have PS4s. And we've been playing Halo 5, the MCC, and Forza 6. So I'll sum it up for you. My XB1 is getting much more use than my PS4, even though I bought both consoles. Who gives a crap about the numbers anymore? Oh yeah, sad PS4 owners who STILL don't have an exclusive worth playing.
    PS4: #StillWaitingForGreatnessToCome Enough said. The only ones who care about the numbers are people with nothing else to back up their argument. Sent from my Lumia 950
  • BS
  • Makes sense only for Microsoft fanboys.  
  • How does it help anybody to boast about how many one-time transactions you have? Posted from Windows Central for XL
  • It makes sense to anyone with even the smallest IQ. Whether you "agree" with their new metric over sales is another matter.
  • Is it so important when I say Xbox on. Forget its on . And watch my tv stay dim for multiple hours on the dashboard??
  • Yes, because it lets them know: 1. You're still in possession of the console you purchased. 2. You're still accessing the system, making you more likely to remain a customer of their software and services.
  • And 3. So they know you turned it on and didn't do anything so they have to work to make it more engaging...
  • 4. So that they know you're actually using Xbox rather than playing Xbox Solitaire on your W10 computer
  • if xbox one was ahead of sony in sales in at least NA, im sure they would still be announcing units. 
  • It took the original/360 something like 6 years to overtake PS in Japan, and that's a better judge given it's the PS home market and was so uncrackable by any other console including the Wii which outsold both initially in the fickle US market.
  • What on earth are you talking about? The Xbox has never outsold the Playstation in Japan.
  • Drug crazed lunatic right here folks
  • They'd be shouting it from the rooftops not trying to move the goalposts on how they measure Xbox performance. And its worth noting they will be counting EVERYTHING that connects to Xbox live so they can inflate the numbers any way they want. Pretty clear why they are doing this.
  • The real question is whether these numbers include Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8.0/8.1/7.8 users who play Xbox games from their respective Stores, because those platforms automatically generate Xbox accounts for the signed-in Microsoft account and there are a lot of F2P games out there. Is someone's grandmother who is playing a free game like Microsoft Bingo on her Surface RT tablet counted as an "active Xbox Live user"? If so, as more people upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, the Xbox Live user numbers will surely and steadily go up.
  • No it does not, if that was the case we would be looking ver 220 Million for windows 10 devices, this not include the Windows 8/8.1, or Windows 7 user base, or even Windows Vista or Windows XP.  Actiive Xbox Live users are subscribers.  If we were to go with your assumption that Xbox account were automaticaly setup in Windows 10, 8/8.1  They would be touting over 400 million users or move.
  • "if that was the case we would be looking ver 220 Million for windows 10 devices", no, because not all users will have opened up the Windows Store, let alone played a game in it, let alone a game with Xbox integration, let alone in the last month. That's the only way they would've been counted in the scenario I raised, which, by the way "wasn't an assumption"; it was a question.
  • You're right. What's missing is the definition of 'Active User'
  • According to some articles and Microsoft, is a person that plays an online game at least once a month.
  • @coip prize goes to you for being smarter
  • Please, if they were selling at the volume of the PS4, they would disclose them. The explanation doesn't really make sense either. If Xbox Live numbers are riskier, why aren't they also revealing them?
  • It's completely logical. "Windows as a service" is now their mantra, so how often people use the service is the most important metric to them. Plus, given the huge jump in price/profitability of an Xbox live Gold membership not so long ago, it's undoubtedly where a lot of the obey is being made, and people who don't go online are unlikely to renew. It also gets them out of the bind they're in because the 360 was so good that many users see no value in updating their console.
    It's not all about console wars. Knowing if your ecosystem it's healthy is more important.
  • Exactly. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • @MadSci2
    Lol, I'm a fan, but you sir are drowning in an ocean of cool aid. There is only ONE reason they are stopping these numbers, "Complete and utter sales disaster"
  • But isn't the XB1 outselling the 360 over the same period? Its just the PS4 has far and away exceeded expectations.
  • This was said before
  • But then what about people who prefer to play only single player games and have not subscribed to Xbox Live?
  • That is another interesting question: people who completely game on Xbox offline would not be include in these totals?
  • I'm pretty sure you need to register an account online and regardless of whether the game is single player it will sync online for things like updates and Gamerscore.
  • We all know (and they know) that the PS4 has won the console war against the Xbox One. Microsoft may make it a close call in the long run, but so far it's not that close. So now it comes down to how sustainable (or health) the ecosystem is for them. This makes a lot of sense to measure it this way (whether you include Windows 10 or not). It's a metric of how well consumers are engaging with their services. To me, the numbers show that they are doing well and can make money in second place. It validates to me that I can continue to purchase within that ecosystem since it will be around. Is the PS4 better than the Xbox One? To me, no. The marketplace has spoken though.
  • And in that market they are achieving huge revenues and profits.
  • That's likely a really small group. Most people have gamertags regardless if they play online or not. Xbox Live is free anyway, why would the majority of single player games deny themselves free services?
  • ...Xbox Live is not and has never been free. Sent from my Lumia 950
  • Xbox Live is free? try that again... I doubt it.
  • I'm on Live everyday. My Xbox really is the entertainment hub of my home. And as they add more features, it just keeps solidifying its place as ruling home console. Now I recently bought a PS4 instead of adding another Xbox One to the house (which I wanted to do, but all the recent Live outages really do leave me in the dark) and have to admit I find it unfamiliar and somewhat confusing to navigate the user interface. Possibly because I haven't spent a lot of time with it. But I will say that graphics wise I can notice a difference between the two, and the 4 beats out the One in my opinion. But I won't abandon the Xbox One for the PS4 anytime soon, in part because I am a fan boy, but mostly because I'm too familiar with the One, and it fits me like a well worn pair of underwear, holes and all. So I'm kind of in agreement with listing Live numbers instead of sales numbers, although posting both might give us a more clear picture.
  • It actually is logical. Currently, the Xbox One is outselling where the Xbox 360 was at the same point in its life. That's a good thing but there are still oodles of people on the internet who claim the system is tanking based solely on the fact that there are more PS4s out in the wild. Fact of the matter is that if systems weren't selling then studios wouldn't continue to makes games for it and would abandon it the way they did the Wii U and yet there are plenty of games already on the system and more incoming. People can claim Microsoft is moving the goalposts but I think it has less to do with the number of units sold versus managing the illogical perceptions people have about the health of the Xbox brand (which is still very strong) based only on console sales. It's the internet where perceptions all too often become reality because people can't be bothered to do their research.
  • I still don't buy that crap. For one, how many new users you have is important to the growth and health of the Xbox lice. Second, what about the people, like myself, have an Xbox live account soley because of my windows phone. That doesn't mean I buy anything or even really live in said ecosystem, so in my opinion, that logic is flawed and inaccurate...
  • Or people who have to sign in with free accounts to watch Netflix, etc on a 360.  
  • The article specifically states that it's referring to people using Xbox Live on console and PC. Nowhere is Windows Phone mentioned and, even if it were, there's a good chance that those users don't really make a dent in the numbers. New users are important but there's no reason to assume that none of the Xbox live users are new console buyers just because they don't get specific with the console numbers.
  • My bad, I stopped reading 2 sentences short of that so I didn't see it. I think active users is definitely a performance indicator, but not indicative enough of overall performance and therefore shouldn't be the sole indicator
  • I have both consoles but use the X1 much more than I do the PS4. I will be buying the Division on the PS4 be cause it was the first game that I can honestly say looked better on it. I ran the beta on both consoles and the division looked much better on the PS4 but I will still be using the x1 more just because it is much more versatile.
  • I'm on the X1 daily watch a moving, listening to music, playing a game or just chatting with one of my kids. My kids who are all older prefer the X1. So measuring the ecosystem by how many people use Xbox Live actually makes sense.
  • PS4 owners don't need an X-Box One.  They can play all the Xbox One exclusives like Tombraider and Quantum Break on their Windows 10 PC.  This cross platform business is just killing the Xbox One sales. 
  • Or, PS4 owners, who don't have an Xbox and likely won't have an Xbox, are spending money on software from Microsoft on a Microsoft platform? Win-Win for MS? ​I got shot of my PS4 after it had gathered enough. Mostly because of the ties with XB1 and my PC. You can paint both pictures.        
  • Cop out. Not releasing sales figures is an admission of defeat, this is BS neatly wrapped in a warm and fuzzy spin dryer
  • Well at least Microsoft isn't ending up like Sega or Atari. Posted via the Windows Central App for Nexus 5x