What you need to know from Gamescom 2013

The opening day for European gaming trade show GamesCom 2013 led to some exciting information about current and next-generation consoles. While Sony (s sne) was the only major hardware player to take the stage in Cologne, Germany, news circulated with demos on the showroom floor about the overall console landscape heading into the holiday season.
Here are the highlights from today.

  • Microsoft announces independent publishing platform: Instead of the winding, difficult, and costly journey that laid ahead for developers looking to publish independent games on the Xbox 360, Microsoft (s msft) is attempting an open-door policy with its new program, Independent Developers @Xbox. According to IGN, [email protected] will issue two development kits to approved independent development teams for free, and create content for the Xbox One. As of now, the platform is restricted to teams with a “proven track record,” but an easier development process could feed more original content Microsoft’s way.
  • Full Xbox lineup revealed: With the appearance of Call of Duty: Ghosts and Skylanders: Swap Force earlier this year at E3, Microsoft promised a strong launch-day software library for its latest console. The full list, revealed today, has more than 20 games available, including the aforementioned games as well as FIFA 14Dead Rising 3, and Watch Dogs.
  • Price drop PlayStation Vita: Onstage in Cologne, Sony made a clear effort to boost the anemic sales of the handheld PlayStation Vita. Most significantly, the year-old device will see a price drop to $199, gain Europe-specific bundle packs of 8-10 games at a great discount, and see new titles — most intriguingly Borderlands 2. Sony also made the effort to play up the Vita’s cross-platform capability, showing Wii U-style handheld streaming onstage in a demo of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. 
  • PlayStation 4 gets debut date: Amped to pick up a PS4 but didn’t make it in time for a Day One edition? Anxious players can camp out for the console’s debut on November 15 in the U.S. It’s officially positioned for Black Friday madness two weeks later, but it’s unclear whether it’ll beat Microsoft to the punch, as the Xbox One awaits a release date.
  • Indie developers steal spotlight: While big-name studio games like Watch Dogs and Grand Theft Auto V got important mentions throughout Sony’s keynote, the focus seems to be on nabbing indie developers for exclusive release content. While Microsoft continues to work on those relationships via the aforementioned [email protected] program, Sony proudly debuted original titles from indie developers — both already-existing games and original exclusives for the PlayStation 4 — onstage alongside demos of developers like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. This battle, it seems, will come down to power of the loyalty in those little development teams.