Microsoft knows how to throw a Kinect party

I’m still getting over my hangover from last night’s festivities, but as I look over my more than a half dozen free t-shirts, umbrellas, beanie cap, ponchos, Burger King gift cards, Xbox Live Gold yearly membership, AND two free Kinect games…I can only imagine how much money was poured into this illustrious event.

Instead of taking my press pass and hanging out backstage with free food and drinks, I joined the throws of people waiting to get their hands on Kinect and, more importantly, free goodies.

And boy were there a lot of them. An event representative told me that Microsoft printed up no fewer than NINE THOUSAND t-shirts for the event. The first 3,000 people in line got two free Kinect games with their Kinect purchase. From what I heard, the total number of people didn’t even come close to approaching that, so people this morning can assumedly still cash in on that deal.

And as such, there were way too many shirts to go around, and at some point people in line stopped accepting the handouts. Plenty of other giveaways kept the entire crowd – even the late arrivers – more than happy.

For those unwilling to stand in the long line (I got there at around 3:00 PM), there was a huge Kinect demo station in the middle of Times Square along with musical performances, activities, and even more giveaways.

People in line got to see very quick appearances from such Xbox personnel as Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb, and Kinect creator Kudo Tsunoda. “The King” from Burger King even showed up, highlighting the strong partnership between Microsoft and the fast food chain.

The event went off without a hitch. Doors opened a few minutes before midnight and I got through by about 12:20. It was all very well organized.

After I got out, I caught a cab back to my apartment to drop everything off, and then headed off to the official Kinect launch after party at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. The first 400 people to buy a Kinect, along with all the event personnel and media, got a ticket to the party.

On my way back, I saw people still around the corner at the Toys R Us where the launch event was held. It was after 1:00 AM and these people were still waiting to get in the store. Luckily for me I was already done with that madness and ready for the party.

In addition to a complete open bar and plenty of free food, there were five stations to test out launch Kinect games – like Sonic Free Riders and Kinect Sports – in a drunken state in front of friends. Good times. Good times.

At a presentation during the party, Tsunoda called the entire launch event his “most awesome day in video games.”

It was the perfect apex to Microsoft’s enormous marketing campaign for the Kinect. The company has never poured as much money into promoting a product as it did for this motion-sensing camera, and last night brought that all full circle. The main question awaiting everyone is whether or not this excitement will continue to make Kinect a success in the long run.

But for the hundreds of people who showed up to Times Square last night, it’s already worth it.