Microsoft's "Ultimate Gameroom Giveaway" is charity turned into a gimmick as voters decide which Children's hospitals receive prize packages. I'm all for charity, but was it really necessary to guarantee a let down for kids in the 167 "losing" hospitals?
The three hospitals to receive an Ultimate Gameroom through Microsoft's partnership with the Children's Miracle Network are chosen by a very public popular vote. Not a random raffle, not a secret vote, but a public popular vote with results regularly updating on the CMN's website.
As I'm writing this, there is an eight-way tie for last place, with each hospital having one measly vote. The hospitals currently in the top three have a lead of several thousand votes over the rest, but that can and probably will change quickly. How will those kids feel when they miss out on the gamerooms after thinking they could win? How do the kids at the hospitals with barely any votes feel? While I'm sure that all the kids at the winning hospitals (or at least those who enjoy Xbox-based games) will be as giddy as can be, charity isn't about making 167 hospitals full of kids feel like losers in the process.
Looking at the premise of the giveaway, it's like Christmas gone oh-so-very wrong: They'll give some Children's hospitals about ten thousand dollars worth of equipment which could include several 42" Plasma TVs, a pair of Xbox consoles, some Zunes, four computers, oodles of games, and associated furniture. Microsoft is even throwing in delivery, installation, and "reasonable labor," while the hospitals cover any construction costs. Pretty fair. Except that the world is voting on where Saint Microsoft will bring Xboxes.
I truly hope this is just a one-time bad decision, especially since Microsoft is normally rather good about charities, this one included. They've helped raise $1.3 million of the incredible $3.2 billion total which the Children's Miracle Network has raised for Children's hospitals around the world. Microsoft has also contributed an Xbox kiosk to each of the 170 hospitals in the Network and been an all-around great partner to the CMN. It's truly sad that they've chucked away any milligram of character with the Ultimate Gameroom Giveaway. This vile competition is on the level of tearing a teddy bear out of a child's arms and then ripping it apart into a pile of fuzzy remains on the spot.
It's almost sad the mess probably started with good intentions. Perhaps someone truly struggled to find a way to cajole his or her boss into approving giving away $30,000 in equipment. Maybe turning it into a marketing scheme was the only way to cover or justify the expense, but if that's the case then I'm even more disappointed. Microsoft has spent hundreds of millions on individual ad campaigns, some of which barely made sense and were ridiculed, while this act of charity had the potential for a lot of positive publicity. And even if Microsoft went as far as outfitting each of the 170 hospitals with the same Ultimate Gameroom, it would've cost them a measly $1.7 million total. That's a lot to you and I, but to Microsoft that's .6%, point freakin' six percent, of the cost of a single ad campaign.