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)
GameTruck Licensing, LLC has been awarded a patent by The United States Patent and Trademark for its Method of Entertaining Using A Mobile Entertainment Environment. The patent identifies GameTruck’s unique process of entertaining people in its Mobile Video Game Theater™, and illustrates in detail the features and original concepts created by GameTruck.
North Carolina currently has one franchise, operating since May, 2011, located in the Triangle area and owned by Cary, NC residents Eric and Lizette Watko. GameTruck’s second North Carolina franchise will begin operations in Charlotte later this month.
Outfitted with big screen TVs, the latest video game consoles and newest titles, GameTruck brings a plush 16-player video arcade direct to the customer’s door. Their state-of-the-art rigs are formatted as both dual-axle trailers and all-in-one RVs, and are available for private parties, educational and fundraising events, or corporate and public events.
The Evolution of GameTruck
A successful video game developer, GameTruck’s CEO and founder Scott Novis created GameTruck with the goal of bringing video gamers a place to play together. He sees this validation as part of a journey.
“Since I first had the idea at my son’s birthday party, to the day we built the first rig, we’ve all worked so hard to innovate every day, execute new ideas, and bring people together. It’s an honor to be recognized and protected by the US Patent & Trademark office for a concept we truly believe has unlimited potential”, said Novis.
The company has grown steadily since inception, with franchisees operating in over fifty major domestic markets. Recent international expansion has introduced GameTruck to Lagos Nigeria, and further plans involve operators in Canada and Trinidad.
“With any great idea like this, eventually there are always copycats and competitors that pop up here and there,” says GameTruck’s SVP of Franchise Licensing, Mike Watorski. “But we keep getting calls from potential franchisees wanting to join up with GameTruck. It’s a tough economy right now, and if people are going to jump into a new business they want to be absolutely sure it’s got a solid backbone”.
GameTruck seamlessly combines its customer website and call center with a one-of-a-kind franchisee backend operating system, maintaining a simple, streamlined process for both customers and franchise owners.
GameTruck’s COO, Dave Wachtel, continues, “Through originality, reliability, value, consistency and togetherness, we’ve created events like no other. Laughs and smiles. Camaraderie and teamwork. Prices that don’t break pocketbooks. Moms, families, kids, businesses and schools all see the value in an innovative, positive video gaming environment. We believe the US Patent now puts us on even firmer ground, so we may not only defend our ideas, but also look to the future.”
Another reason that Cary is known as the Technology Town.