Despite impressive Xbox Series X launch, Microsoft won’t go back to revealing unit sales

By Patrick Dane, Thursday, 12 November 2020 13:24 GMT

Xbox still won’t report sales figures for Series X and Series S.

With the launch of the Xbox Series X/S, it appears that Microsoft’s long-held policy of not disclosing sales numbers for the Xbox brand will hold.

Console makers used to boast about their sales numbers wherever they could. Even as early as the last generation, both Microsoft and Sony reported their figures… well, until they didn’t. Or more specifically, Microsoft stopped.

It doesn’t look like that stance is going to change either. With the start of a new console generation, there was a question about whether sales figures would come back. Xbox boss Phil Spencer says it’s not happening, even with the impressive launch of the Xbox Series X/S.

Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “I know it seems manipulative and I’ll apologise for that, but I don’t want my team’s focus on [console sales]… 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.

“In the last year we’ve had Google and Amazon and now Facebook announcing they’re coming into our gaming space. I’m not gonna go compete with their numbers based on how many Xbox Series X I’ve sold,” he added.

“[Google] is never gonna talk about how many Chromecast Pros they sold. They’re gonna talk about how many players they have.”

Spencer, however, is aware why most people want to get the hard numbers. “I think the people who want to pit us against Sony based on who sold the most consoles lose the context of what gaming is about today,” he explained.

“There are 3 billion people who play games on the planet today, but maybe [only] 200 million households that have a video game console. In a way, the console space is becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of the overall gaming pie.”

While it does seem like it might be a tactic to save face, it’s not hard to see why Spencer is taking this stance. Xbox is invested in Game Pass and cloud services across multiple platforms, including the PC. Its interest seems to be focused on getting players into its ecosystem, rather than selling consoles.

Whether that works out or not remains to be seen. At the very least, it highlights one of the growing rifts between the Xbox and PlayStation model and one that is likely going to define this new generation.

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