Microsoft: MAU is the health metric of any service

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.

More stories

Xbox CFO expects supply chain issues to continue through 2022

Tim Stuart said that things "could remain rocky," including during the holiday season

By Marie Dealessandri

Xbox Game Pass to add game demos and streaming for owned titles this year

Microsoft will pay developers for demos and share performance stats, also bringing Xbox app for cloud gaming to Samsung TVs

By James Batchelor

Latest comments (6)

Ralph Tricoche Studying MA, CUNY6 years ago
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.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago
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.
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief6 years ago
Cynical responses on 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.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (6)
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.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief6 years ago
@Barry: If Microsoft would start sharing more revenue data from these services that would be awesome too.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Jace Merchandiser 6 years ago
Then why not provide both?
That is an excellent idea. But of course we all know why they are only using one.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.