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Event Planner Sues Microsoft Over Kinect Launch Snafu

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The Times Square launch of Microsoft’s controller-free gaming gadget Kinect, featuring R&B singer Ne-Yo, was almost a no-go when the cops threatened to pull the plug because they hadn’t been told of the Billboard-ranked performer’s presence.

It was only after the event coordinator, P.R.omotion!, sweet-talked the NYPD and promised to pay $45,000 in fines to the city that the cops allowed the kickoff to continue.

Now the event company is suing Microsoft, New York ad agency Mother, and Craig McNary, the Xbox executive who oversaw the premiere, for leaving them out to dry. P.R.omotion! wants the troika to pay them $63,150 in compensation for the fines, legal fees and the hassle of fixing the mess, according a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

“I’ve never had to do this, ever, and my clients are the biggest in the country,” said Tom Hennigan, the owner of the event company. “It’s unfortunate that this happened.”

Kinect, the Xbox peripheral that allows you to play games through hand motions and voice commands, was introduced in November 2010 by Microsoft in a $500 million ad campaign. Gamers lined up around the block until midnight the night that the first Kinects were sold at the Toys R Us in Times Square. Microsoft printed up 9,000 T-shirts to promote the event, and promised two free games to the first 3,000 people to buy the device. A large section of Times Square was dedicated to demos, performers and dancers.

Hennigan’s company claims in its suit that it stressed to Microsoft and Mother that the city was highly adverse to changes. Nevertheless, half an hour before the first sale, the police threatened to shut down the whole event because no one had told them that the top-selling singer would be there. “McNary, who was present at the event, requested [P.R.omotion!] negotiate with the city to ensure that the event would proceed,” according to court papers.

Hennigan, 52, who has owned the company for 22 years, said he was upset that he felt forced to sue to get his money back. “I’m about good karma,” he said. “The fact that I had to file this is not good karma.”

“"We asked P.R.omotion! to provide back up invoices or receipts for said fine and he was unable to provide them," said Tom Webster, a partner at Mother. “This is something we'd prefer to handle out of court." Microsoft declined to comment.