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.”