The Digital Skeptic: Windows 8 Brings Xbox 720 to Zero

LAS VEGAS ( TheStreet) -- Most Microsoft ( MSFT) execs didn't bother showing up here for the 2013 International CES. Too bad. They missed out on talking to techie Malik Forte, who had this to say about the soon to be upgraded Xbox:

"I am, like, 'Why fix what is not broken?'"

The hip, Los Angeles-based 27-year-old is not some gamer who has a virtual ax to grind with Redmond. Oh no, this enterprising young man has a cool job. He and his buddies get paid serious cash to -- get ready for this -- play video games.

"We are ushering in an interactive revolution between game consumers and game developers," Forte told me as we were demoed some of the Windows 8 PCs here.

Forte says companies such as Ubisoft and Sony ( SNE) pay his firm, Max Level, to host online and live events that give these companies valuable access to the video game preferences of hard-to-capture demographics.

"My role is right there with the developers and the game creators," Forte told me. He says Max Level creates an environment where authority-shy, mostly young gamers are comfortable disclosing what's not quite polished in games.

Forte has some serious notches on his gaming-analysis belt. He says he's advised improvements on Assassin's Creed, God of War: Ascension and many others.

But one gaming platform worries Forte.

"I love the Xbox. But the more I look at Windows 8, the more confusing it is to me," he said as we -- like a half-billion other Windows users -- puzzled out how make Windows 8 work on our demo PCs.

"I cannot understand how they will make Windows 8 work on the Xbox," he said.

Windows 8 could get the Xbox pwned
As much as Windows 8-weary investors hate to consider it, a critical piece of the Windows 8 PC/Phone/Tablet rollout -- that is, how it works on Microsoft's wildly successful gaming platforms -- probably has yet to even begin.

The Windows 8/Xbox 720 puzzle breaks down like this: There is an expected life-to-date total sales for Xbox 360 at 70 million units as of 2013. And investors see nothing but money on the looming major upgrade to the platform code-named Durango, also known as Xbox 720, due out in the fall.

"Microsoft's Xbox 720 will be a game changer with its Kinect and other features," is how Cris Frangold caught the sentiment in a post for the investment blog Seeking Alpha called Microsoft's New Money Gun.

The buzz says the new, upgraded Xbox will almost certainly have gaudy, PC-like features, such as 8GB of RAM, eventual support for augmented-reality glasses and powerful use of gesture control as part of its successful Kinect motion-capture system.

A Microsoft representative declined to comment on specifics of how Windows 8 will work with the various emerging Xbox platforms, but Forte worries that Microsoft intends to bash its hard-to-learn Windows 8 Metro tile environment into the Xbox.

"It seems to me they are trying to synchronize Windows 8 across everything," he said. "I cannot tell you enough how ridiculous it is to me that they would bring this to the Xbox."

What does he think young gamers will do if that happens?"They will drop it," he said. "Instantly."

Forte explained that the gaming community is not like Microsoft's others customers, who are, in a sense, forced to migrate to Windows 8. There is no brand loyalty in the under-35-year-old gamer community.

"If you change even the slightest thing, and I am talking about like what kind of powers a character has, gamers revolt," Forte said.

The way Forte sees it, Microsoft's long-fought gaming dominance over Sony and Nintendo could disappear essentially instantly. He believes kids would make a point of sticking with the traditional Xbox or going to another platform rather than messing with a hard-to-use Windows 8 Xbox.

"They'll just send their new Xbox back," he said. "It could be a disaster."

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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