Following the launch of their ninth-generation consoles, Microsoft announced that it will not publicly divulge the number Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.
In an interview with The Guardian, Phil Spencer, Microsoft Executive Vice-President for Gaming and Head of the Xbox brand said that they instead want to focus on player numbers rather than publishing the number of consoles sold.
“I know it seems manipulative and I’ll apologize for that, but I don’t want my team’s focus on [console sales],” Spencer said. “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.”
As Spencer put it, he firmly believes that the push towards the Xbox game pass which encourages players to avail of Xbox’s cloud gaming service but not of the Xbox Series X will become a likely pattern.
“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.” he added.
This shift in perspective highlighted in Spencer’s interview further reinforces the long term vision of Microsoft for Xbox. The company wants its gaming platform to further expand its territory, not just conquering the console market but is set to slowly inch is why onto the PC gaming market as well.
With thousands of Xbox titles slowly becoming available to PC gamers through Microsoft’s push towards the Xbox Game Pass and Xbox testing the waters with the introduction of Project xCloud a few months ago, the shift in perspective towards ensuring a high number of players using the platform and not just the amount of consoles sold further solidifies Xbox’s long term vision of what gaming would look like for the company. This vision is one that is not just console-driven but one that is played in a shared ecosystem across different platforms: from the Xbox itself to smartphones and even to PCs. This is a sign of what Xbox’s greater expansion would look like for the years to come.
The push towards the Xbox Game Pass also follows the shift of subscription-based services that has become highly apparent in other forms of media over recent years. This started first in the rise of music-streaming services with iTunes, Spotify, Tidal among many other services, in terms of delivering digital content to subscribers with the rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+.
The gaming industry is not far behind in the subscription-based cloud gaming services. Services such as Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now let players forego the need to purchase individual titles, instead, offering subscribers access to thousands of games in their respective catalogs. Other tech companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon have also tried to launch their own video game subscription services, with varying degrees of success.
With the rise of digital subscription services, it seems that Microsoft is betting heavily on Xbox’s transition into one. This seems to be in stark contrast to Sony who is still sticking to the traditional, hardware-focused console business model for the PlayStation 5. Will the former’s bet pay off, or will the latter’s adherence to the more traditional model resonate more with gamers? Only time will tell.