Truck full of games? Yeah, they’re real!
When I was a kid I had two consistent fantasies growing up. One was; acquire superpowers and perhaps becoming a less lame version of El Dorado. Two; living in a truck full of videogames. As time passed, it became painfully clear that was I not going to be a member of the Superfriends but, I still held out hope for my truck full of games.
Last week, Harold Goldberg (gaming journalism Jedi Master and author of All Your Bases Are Belong to Us) invited me to check out a GameTruck that was being sent to New York City to be evaluated by us. GameTruck is a franchise that essential sends you a mobile gaming center in the form of a 50 foot trailer that’s decked out with videogames and big screens. From what I’m told this is a big hit for children’s parties and occasionally the nerdy corporate gig. It just so happened that NYC was hit with tropical storm like rain and winds that could lift a cow, but that was not stopping me. I was determined to see this damn truck, I had to. I would fight through waves of knife-wielding banditos in order to see a dream come true. Sadly, the worst thing that happened to me was stepping in an ankle deep puddle and almost losing my hat to the wind.
I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. I was half-expecting a janky converted minivan with a couple of screens of Madden 12 being played; fortunately the monster that pulled up proved the contrary. An enormous trailer pulls up covered in crazy green decals after debating where to put the damn thing, the GameTruck gave us refuge from the storm.
Inside we were treated to a truly state of the art set-up. Neon green and red track lighting illuminated the inside of the surprising spacious trailer. I counted five HDTVs each hooked up with a Wii and Xbox 360. In one nook of the truck you had your Kinect station where you would be able to play motion games or wanted to get a session of Guitar Hero without hitting someone with plastic instrument or errant elbow. The coolest feature of the Game Truck is that the side panels can pop off and two TVs magically rise from behind the couch so games can be played from outside the truck. So far, I was impressed with a lot of design decisions mostly because that there is plenty of room for parties to walk around
Once we were able to soak everything in, we decided that some games needed to be played in order to properly evaluate the Game Truck. We walked over to the game wall and tried out NHL 12. We plopped down on the leather couch and had a couple of intense matches where I proved to be the victor. I was inside my dream, I could not be stopped.
My biggest concern is how the games would sound once you have a ton of kids screaming and hollering drown out the game noise. I guess, it’s a small sacrifice for the convenience of having a game party you don’t have to set up yourself.
You could easily cram about twenty or so screaming kids who are provided with plenty of options as far games are concerned. Since the GT is marketing as a kid friendly endeavor, parents can choose which games their younglings could be exposed to by simply going to the gamewall and removing the games they feel aren’t suitable for their party and the kids are none the wiser. Each GameTruck comes with a Game Coach to explain the basics to the non-gamers in the groups and takes care of all the set up pre and post game party. It was explained to us that Game Coaches pretty make sure that everyone gets to play and nothing craps out.
As I was playing, the Game Coach explained to us that the most popular games usually are Super Smash Brothers and pretty much any other fighting game. Each Game Truck comes with its own network setup so intense 8 on 8 Call of Duty or Halo LAN matches usual end up happening at some point during a party.
Normally, GameTrucks don’t make it out NYC but they are looking for a franchisee to take the risk. From what I heard from Kenneth, the owner of this particular truck, GameTrucks are huge in the suburbs and are a great end cap for a kid’s birthday party and build great word of mouth buzz. A NYC Game Truck would have a problem with just finding places to park. We had to set ours near a playground nearly blocking traffic. Prices vary depending on how many people are gaming, and how far the truck has to go but, completely reasonable for the most part.
All in all, my game truck experience was glowingly positive. It managed to match up with my ridiculous man-child fantasy and I think premise of a rolling LAN party is pretty ambitious. From a party goer stand point, you have a lot of game choices and unless you have like fifty people wanting to play at the same time, there’s something for everyone with little wait time. To be honest, I didn’t want to leave the truck once were settled in. Maybe it was the storm, but I really did not want to leave. I can only imagine a pack of kids feeling the same way once their time is up. That’s what they in the end, kids begging their parents for an extra hour. Cue the “CHA-CHING” sound! In case you’re wondering I did ask if I could live in the truck. Kenneth simply said no and I had to move on with my life. Fantasy ruined.
For more info on a GAMETRUCK, check out GAMETRUCKPARTY.COM and find a truck near you.
Thanks again to Kenneth Levey for letting us nerd out in his truck!
GameTruck is a video game party on wheels. There are more than 50 GameTrucks in the country, but Brad Taylor of Des Moines has the only one in Iowa.
The GameTruck trailer is equipped with four 55-inch HD TV screens, 200 Wii, PS3 and Xbox games and leather-upholstered seating for 16 players who can play in small groups or together. The trailer, which pulls up and parks at the party site, also has its own generator, heating and cooling system.
“We’ve had every kind of party you can imagine: bar mitzvahs; bachelor, bachelorette parties; birthdays for 30-, 40-year-olds; corporate events, Super Bowl parties. We’ve been at large-scale events like fairs and festivals. But the heart of the business is boys’ birthday parties,” said Taylor, who is celebrating his second anniversary as a GameTruck owner.
The seating can also be removed to make way for dancing or cheerleading with videos, which is popular among younger girls, he said.
Taylor’s GameTruck has hosted more than 30 parties in each of the past three months, and Taylor said his truck has been consistently in the top 10 for number of parties per truck within the nationwide GameTruck organization.
His largest GameTruck party was thrown by a family for an entire junior high graduating class. Other activities were provided, and partiers took turns in the trailer.
Adults’ parties are a lot of fun, too, “but a lot of them aren’t as video-savvy as children, so they need a little bit of handling at times,” said Taylor, who has a roster of college-age “game coaches” who supervise and assist with videos.
GameTruck was founded in 2006 by engineer Scott Novis of Tempe, Ariz. He began franchising it in 2008 and his company, GameTruck Licensing LLC, is No. 385 on Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2012 list of top franchises.
The total investment for a franchise is $119,500 to $304,000, according to the magazine. GameTruck Licensing does not charge a franchise fee, so the investment covers the purchase of the GameTruck.
Taylor was introduced to the GameTruck business during a visit to Arizona a few years ago and immediately saw its potential in central Iowa. As the father of two children with winter birthdays, Taylor knew the venue might be ideal for children’s birthday parties, especially for those who have outgrown play places geared for younger kids.
“I decided it was something I wanted to do, but I came back to Des Moines and thought about it awhile and tried to figure out how to do the financing,” said Taylor whose day job is as a computer consultant for Alliance Technologies.
He bought a Dodge Ram three-quarter ton pickup truck to pull a 35-foot-long, V-nose trailer with a 10- by 30-foot gaming area. The length from the tip of the trailer to the bumper of the truck is 50 feet.
An 8500-watt Cummins Onan diesel generator provides the power, heating and air conditioning.
“We’ve had parties in all weather conditions, some as cold as minus 18 and as hot as 110. It’s held its own,” Taylor said. “We even did a couple in a blizzard, which I wish we hadn’t done, but we were on our way when it hit, and how do you tell a 10-year-old boy the party is not going to happen?”
Julie Katich of West Des Moines hired the game vehicle for a pre-Christmas birthday party for her son Carson, who turned 11 on Dec. 20.
“It’s so hard to think of parties with a winter birthday,” said Katich, of West Des Moines. “Carson decided he wanted this. He’s been at other parties with it.”
“I like that it has all sorts of games to pick out,” Carson said. “It also has good seats and speakers.”
Parents usually like how easy the party is to host, Taylor said. “We can send electronic invitations. We show up and take control. Our game coaches are the supervisors,” he said.
The vehicle was parked in the Sacred Heart School lot for Carson’s party, but the majority of time it is parked in front of people’s homes, Taylor said.
He doesn’t allow food and beverages in the trailer, but some clients have had him park near pizza parlors where they eat.
The charge is $295 for two hours and $95 for each additional hour on weekends. During the week, rates run $275 for two hours and $85 for each additional hour. The charge may be higher for larger events because the game coach has to monitor the times per player and help people on and off the truck.
The busiest time is during the winter. “We don’t have to compete with parks, pools and backyards,” Taylor said.
Chad Svendson of QSP Fundraising has used the GameTruck this year and last year as an incentive for school fundraising through magazine subscription sales. Students who meet a quota are treated to time — usually about 30 minutes — playing videos in the GameTruck.
Svendson said the first year, when the incentive was new to the students, they sold $22,000 worth of magazine subscriptions. This year, when the students were familiar with it and eager to play the videos, they sold $40,000 worth.
“We make sure that when the GameTruck is at schools, only school-appropriate games are allowed to be played,” said Svendson, a former teacher, coach and associate principal. “We stay away from games where any type of weapon is used and make sure the games are in line with school-appropriate activities.”
Taylor said he intended the GameTruck to be a side business, but it’s become a second, full-time job.
“I’m glad I did it,” he said. “I’m having a ton of fun with it, and after all, when you’re around parties and fun events, everyone is in a good mood.”
GameTruck Licensing, LLC is excited to be ranked in Entrepreneur Magazine’s 33rd annual Franchise 500®, as well as being ranked #1 in the mobile video game theater category as the 2012 Top New Franchise Opportunities.
To view the full ranking and any of these related stories, pick up a copy of the January 2012 issue of Entrepreneur on newsstands on December 20th, or visit www.entrepreneur.com/franchise500.
GameTruck Ranking History
Franchise 500®: #385 (2012)
Fastest-Growing: #87 (2012)
Top New: #37 (2012)