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Microsoft: MAU is the health metric of any service

By Rachel Weber

Microsoft: MAU is the health metric of any service

Tue 01 Mar 2016 2:00pm GMT / 9:00am EST / 6:00am PST
HardwarePublishing

Xbox boss Phil Spencer on why sales numbers are not the metric for success

Phil Spencer used his keynote at this year's Xbox Spring Showcase to ask the press to gauge the success of the Xbox One console using more than just sales figures. He argued that monthly active users are a bigger indicator of performance, and that's not just because the PlayStation 4 is still at the top of the hardware charts.

"The number of people in the last 30 days that have engaged with an Xbox Live game on either Windows or Xbox 360 or Xbox One is the critical factor for our team to gauge our success, because that's what our partners want. Our partners and gamers, they want the largest collection of active gamers who are buying and playing games," he told attendees.

"That is the health metric of any service that you want to talk about. What's your monthly active users in the space? It's not how many consoles I sell. If I sold a console two years ago and now it's in the closet collecting dust, that's not good for the gamers."

"[MAU] is the health metric of any service that you want to talk about"

He argued that using MAU as a key metric for success was actually a risk for Microsoft, because unlike the total number of consoles sold the MAU figure has the potential to go down if players become bored.

"If we have some Live issues like we had in the last week, that's not great for our MAU count. That directly hits us," he explained.

"If we go a long stretch without having great games on our platform, that will hit MAU. That will negatively impact MAU. It's great that we're seeing our strongest MAU growth ever... We're incredibly proud of that, but we know we have a lot more work to do. We pick this metric not to hide something. In fact, I think that we're more exposed by picking a number that actually shows how many people are really using our platform, using our service, every month and reporting that publicly."

In January Microsoft reported that Xbox Live is now home to 48 million MAU, which is an increase of 9 million from the previous quarter.

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8 Comments

Ralph Tricoche Studying MA, CUNY

49 78 1.6
Interesting spin doctoring. Im of the mind that if your platform was strong there would be no risk for customer boredom. But Microsoft always does thing backwards, weird or awkward. Kinect, focusing on TV shows, micro-transactions in Halo, backwards compatibility with a horse and carrot type of incentive (pre-order this game and get these older games for free). Personally I have a 360 catalog that hasn't even been scratched while I waited for this BC to be implemented.
Under Phil MS has taken positive strides, I dont think anyone can dispute that, but the foul taste lingers.
Its still early in 2016, lets see what magic tricks they've worked on during the break.

Posted:3 months ago

#1

Barrie Tingle Live Producer, Maxis

472 348 0.7
They focused on TV because they wanted to appeal to the broader market. Those who play consoles for games knew it played games so why dwell on that at the start. Of course it caused those who follow gaming news untold upset that they raged about it online but were they REALLY put out by it when they knew the machine would play games at the end of the day.

I have a 360 catalogue too, and oddly enough still have the 360. It is plugged in and routed through my Xbox One HDMI in. Backwards compatibility isn't a big driver for me, if I want to play my old games, I play them on my old console. I bought an Xbox One for the new games.

Posted:3 months ago

#2

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,447 1,808 1.2
If only the Evil Queen had known that the solution to any problem was switching over to the most convenient metric, the story of Snow White could have avoided many of its tragedies.

Posted:3 months ago

#3

Guy Mobile tech specialist, Plarium

10 15 1.5
Then why not provide both?
New hardware sales are a useful factor on top of MAU, and is a good indication of "new blood" entering the ecosystem. MAU tells only a part of the story and is extremely vague when there are multiple hardware options to consider.

Posted:3 months ago

#4

Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief

245 323 1.3
Cynical responses on Gi.biz? Surely not.

MAU is a much more meaningful metric than sales. In the Lean Startup, Eric Ries rails against "vanity metrics", defined as "metrics that can only go up" and hence do nothing except make the team feel good and the executives feel vain.

There is some small benefit in total sales: it gives an upper bound to the total addressable market. But it is an upper bound: it doesn't capture those users who have replaced a broken device, or stopped using it. Equally, it means that someone who owns a Xbox 360, an Xbox One and a WiiU is likely to appear in all three "installed base" metrics, but is unlikely to be an active purchasing gamer on all three.

MAUs is a much more useful metric to consider as we move from games-as-a-product to games-as-a-service. Bravo Microsoft for switching to a metric that actually matters in the long term.

Posted:3 months ago

#5
Whatever about spin, MS aren't wrong here. XBL seems to be handily & consistently beating PSN in digital sales. That would seem as worthy of reporting as install base numbers.

Posted:3 months ago

#6

Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief

245 323 1.3
@Barry: If Microsoft would start sharing more revenue data from these services that would be awesome too.

Posted:3 months ago

#7

Paul Jace Merchandiser

1,172 1,955 1.7
Then why not provide both?
That is an excellent idea. But of course we all know why they are only using one.

Posted:3 months ago

#8

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