Long story short I've been using XNA for 6 years now just playing around with code, not actually producing anything. It helped me get to where I am today; a professional coder using C#. Well, apparently XNA is dead. After 2 hours of despair I decided that I'd try going to C++ and Direct X (I used them at school so I have some idea of what I'm doing). From what I've ready I can't do that with the new version of VSE; I have to pay to upgrade which I refuse to do unless I started actually making money from my hobby.
So where to now? I've been looking at Unity, which apparently uses C#, however I've never been able to get into it, like at all. I install it, see what looks like a map editor, and decide it's not for me because I'm not looking for a game engine I'm looking for a game library. I'm not really sure if there is anything like XNA out there.
I can say I'm pretty pissed off at Microsoft; all this talk about supporting Indie development then they just yank out the carpet for no reason. I honestly don't know why they did it, especially with them trying to get people developing cross system apps for Windows 8 and especially with them having C# as a primary app language. It just made sense to me that they would expand on XNA to work with all versions of Win 8, straight PC, 360, and the new 720, but instead they slammed the door shut. Don't know where to go from here.
My thoughts are that whenever you buy into a companies proprietary tech then you're at their mercy. Now I know that XNA is not just a Microsoft proprietary tech, since you can still use it through other means, but the point is that it's Microsoft's deal. You somehow bought into XNA and felt entitled to it, and are now upset because MS did what MS is entitled to do... which is to stop supporting it. Sorry, you need to deal with it.
If you want to stop being at the mercy of companies and their pet languages like XNA and C#, or Objective-C for Apple, then go with C++. Not sure why you think that you cant use C++ and DirectX with Visual Studio Express, but you're wrong.
Personally I really dislike what MS did with XNA/C# and Xbox 360 indie development... which is to say that they mandated that you have to use it and excluded C++/native development. I have games that I'd have loved to port to the 360, but basically MS said that they didnt want me to. The wanted only amateurs developing for their indie games section, and that's what they got. Now they wonder why it was a miserable failure?? All my code, engine, tools, and games are in C++. I was not about to rewrite everything to C# just because MS and their XNA group decided to push it. If it was really so great why is their SDK for professional development in C++? Answer: because if they tried that game developers would rebel and jump ship like it was on fire. I'm glad MS is getting rid of XNA.