Microsoft will stop telling investors how many people use Xbox Live as growth of game service slows

Key Points
  • Microsoft began disclosing Xbox Live user numbers to investors five years ago.
  • The company has introduced new gaming services by way of acquisitions.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, speaks during an interview on the David Rubenstein Show in New York on September 27, 2017.
Christopher Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft told investors earlier this week that it will no longer provide numbers about Xbox Live use, with growth of the online gaming service slowing.

In a presentation that came out on Tuesday, Microsoft said it will report revenue from Xbox content and services each quarter instead of a tally of Xbox Live monthly active users, which it had been disclosing in earnings since 2014.

The change follows a strategic shift in Microsoft's gaming unit, which accounts for 9% of the company's revenue.  By acquiring assets like the Mixer video streaming service, Microsoft has established new forums for players to gather as well as new sources of revenue. The company has a cloud gaming service is coming in October.

"As the Microsoft Gaming business has expanded, the Xbox live MAU metric only captures a subset of opportunities across Microsoft's platform," a company spokesperson told CNBC in an email on Wednesday. "Further, we also expect greater volatility in the metric going forward as new content and services are introduced, like Minecraft Earth."

Other big tech companies have made similar changes in how they publish various metrics of late. Oracle, for example, stopped disclosing revenue from its public cloud, and Apple no longer announces unit sales for the iPhone and other hardware products.

Microsoft's Xbox Live service had 65 million monthly active users in the latest quarter, up 14% from a year earlier, marking the fastest growth since 2016. That year and the year prior, Xbox Live user growth exceeded 30%. Sony said in May that its PlayStation Network online service had more than 94 million monthly active users as of March.

Microsoft released Xbox Live in 2002, allowing gamers to chat with one another and participate in discussion forums. For a fee, they can play together online. Prior to telling investors about user data beginning in 2014, Microsoft would occasionally report on its progress in gaming. 

In reporting Xbox content and services data, Microsoft will wrap in revenue from Xbox Live, video games and third-party game royalties, which it said in the investor presentation will show the "long-term health of the Gaming business across content, community and cloud." The company will continue to report total gaming revenue, which includes sales of Xbox consoles, in regulatory filings.

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