[Long-time GSW friend Joel Reed Parker from Game Of The Blog will pop in from time to time to comment for us, and this one is worth pointing out because it's about a charity game pack that has been woefully underpromoted.]

I recently picked up an Xbox 360, mainly due to the recent price drop, and also because it’s been out long enough that there are enough cheap games. X-Men: the Official Game used for $4.99? Jumper: Griffin’s Story for only 10 bucks new? I’m sold!

While searching around for other great buys, I remembered last year’s ESA Holiday Bundle, with 3 games for 30 bucks. As described by the Best Buy website, it “contains three amusing game titles: Cars, Fuzion Frenzy 2 and Open Season” and mentions that “each game provides fun challenges for players of varying skills and preferences .“

For some reason, I contacted Dan Hewitt at the ESA to see if there would be another one this year. Unfortunately, I got this response: “Joel, thanks for writing…because it is such a commitment from the ESA, publishers and participating retailers, we only sell the game pack every two years. Thus, it won't be on store shelves this holiday season.”

He also sent me a link to a press release that points out that last year’s bundle raised 2.6 million dollars for various ESA Foundation children’s charities.

Ingrained mentally to the prospect of a bundle-less holiday season, I was of course surprised to see a banner on Xbox Live promoting a “Family Game Pack”, a new Xbox 360 game bundle, this time benefiting Children’s Miracle Network (take that, ESA Foundation!).

Clicking on it, I found that you can download a free gamerpic, theme, and video for the retail bundle, but the description of the actual product was pretty vague:

"Every year, Children’s Miracle Network hospitals treat 17 million children for every disease and injury imaginable. Download this theme to show your support as 100% of Microsoft’s net proceeds from this Family Games pack will go to support local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals."

I had to go the almighty internet to discover more. Even then, the first link only brought me to various online sellers. It turns out that the three bundled Xbox 360 games this time (all fairly kid-friendly, if not highly rated) are Sonic The Hedgehog, Shrek The Third (based on a movie so stupid and offensive to the soul that I demanded and got my money back at the theater), and Viva Pinata: Party Animals.

Again, the price is $29.99 (of course this means my local GameStop is selling it in-store for $34.99*) and it’s available for sale right now. [UPDATE: Dreamy McWhertor from Kotaku tells us that it's been adjusted to $29.99 both online and in stores, according to his multifarious sources.]

Eventually, enough searching brought me to the press release on the official Xbox page, but even then it wasn’t easy to find from the front page.

Basically the point of all this is cheap games, great charity, terrible promotion -- buy it now even if you don't know any kids that would enjoy this or you're not me. According to the aforementioned internet, two of the games have easy Achievements points, and the Sonic game has a train-wreck-in-slow-motion appeal so there’s truly something for everybody.

-Joel Reed Parker

[*I e-mailed Children's Miracle Foundation, Best Buy, and GameStop asking about this but got answers from no one. GameStop has done this before, they sold both Raw Danger and Fire Pro Wrestling for $19.99 when they were MSRP'ed at $14.99, but doing this with a charity item wouldn't be quite right.]