2014 was a year of transition for Microsoft, and a large part of that was distancing itself from decisions that had left a bad taste in gamers' mouths the previous year. This actually began the year prior, when Microsoft quickly reversed course on its DRM plans, but the trend continued well into this year as well. Starting with Phil Spencer taking the lead as head of Xbox in March, we saw a dramatic shift in policies, particularly those revolving around Xbox One.
In May, the company announced a Kinect-free version of the console, reducing its price to a lean $399 that made it more competitive with Sony's PlayStation 4. This came alongside the announcement that, as in Sony devices, entertainment apps were finally going to be untethered from Gold subscriptions--a move that forced Microsoft to offer partial refunds for users who had purchased Gold for that purpose. Xbox One got an even bigger price drop for the holidays. Microsoft also more aggressively began courting third-parties, most notably with a timed exclusivity deal for Rise of the Tomb Raider. It opened up its wallet for a big acquisition by purchasing Minecraft.
Spencer himself was front and center on many of these announcements, becoming the most visible spokesman for the Xbox brand under his watch. These moves have slowly paid off. We quickly heard that Xbox One sales picked up without Kinect, and the most recent holiday price drop boosted the console to be the top-seller in November. We'll know soon enough if that trend continued through December.
Not all of Microsoft's gaming news was centered around its new console, though. Spencer also made waves by recommitting the company to focus on putting core franchises on PC. Elsewhere in the company, Satya Nadella was named CEO upon the retirement of Steve Ballmer, with prior CEO Bill Gates taking on an advisory role.