It’s you or your child’s birthday in a couple of weeks. Sure you’ll have something fun and exciting for you and your guests to partake in but the standard cake and ice cream just may be too… generic for everyone’s tastes. Besides, who wants to stare at you chewing your box cake.
By the end of the day everyone will be crowded around your minuscule television set, pushing each other off your couch, making a mess of your cushions and completely ignoring your pleas to use a coaster as they fight for their turn on Call of Duty or one of your limited collections of Mario Party as they pass around the only two controllers you own.
Either way, feelings will get hurt, emotions will rise, cake will be thrown and someone will be crying themselves to sleep.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Just imagine a mobile trailer equipped with cushion-y vibrating seats for 28 people, speakers… not just any speakers but the latest in quality, six to eight massive flat screen LED TVs, flickering disco lights that would make Studio 54 jealous, and literally all the video games you and your child’s heart desires. You will be parent of the year and your party will be crowned the BEST by ALL your friends. Oh yes, Parent of the Year Awards will be won.
Well, fantasy just became a reality. Say hello to the latest trend in video games. The video game truck!
It all started in 2006 when Scott Novis, who spent more than 10 years as a leading game developer and designer with the Walt Disney Company & Rainbow Studios, had to host a children’s party for neighborhood kids. It was here that he faced one of parenting’s many dilemmas: “How do I entertain kids without wanting to poke my eyes out?” Novis wanted to be unique, the “talk of the town” but he also knew how picky and vocally opinionated brats…er…kids can be. So Novis strapped on his Thinking Cap and it did what the cap does best…it started to plot. Armed with his handy dandy notebook, that’s when he got an idea of video games but not just any video games. Massive amount of video games the whole neighborhood could partake in, at the same time. He had created the No Child Left Behind Act of gaming. With everyone participating, there’s less fighting, no whining and parents can rediscover the power of “alone time” for a couple of hours or if they officially given up on that, they could partake in the games alongside their kids. So after building the original prototype in his garage and inviting friends and family over to experience the creation (which they loved), he and his brother Chris built the first GameTruck vehicle and hosted the first GameTruck birthday party for the group of friends and neighbors.
Saying it was a success would be an understatement. Convinced that it was not enough to simply build a compelling concept, Scott and his partners designed the business to be scalable and operable by virtually anyone with a passion for video games and a joy for creating a memorable party experience for kids and parents. Initially working during the day as Vice President and General Manager for the Walt Disney Company to support the company financially, Scott left his desk job and turned his full attention to building GameTruck into a successful national franchise corporation. To date, GameTruck boasts 85 trucks in 25 states nationwide, in addition to over 75 franchises.
What exactly can you expect from one of these trucks? Depends on the experience you want to have and your wallet restrictions. You can expect to spend anywhere between $200 for one hour for a simple gameplay party to several thousands of dollars for special events that combine video games with other activities like archery and laser tag. No matter your budget, you will get a “game coach,” making sure everyone knows how to play before he passes out the controls. Up to 24 kids or adults can play interactive video games together at once, in a safe, air conditioned environment. While there is a massive amount of games your child can choose from, parents can pick the games they want included and the amount of time for the rental of each game. For the average party you can expect six or more (depending on the truck size) HD LED flat screen TVs, a 20-foot leather couch and an endless supply of video games and controllers. Then there’s the all-out party complete with food, endless games, multiple consoles, disco balls, flashing lights, DJ’s, silly hats, boas, glasses, a photographer, a photo booth with an unlimited supply of photos, face painting, unlimited glitter (as mentioned previously), archery and laser tag… you know… when you need a break from gaming.
While it is easy to get distracted by the glitz and glamour of it all, the main purpose of these truck is the experience of the video game. Would you rather play on your television set or would you prefer a 4-D experience complete with a smell-o-vision that will dispense scents such as fresh-cut grass when you and your friends play Madden? You may have played that game over one hundred times but when you experience it this way you’ll have a whole new appreciation for the countless of hours and years the game’s designers put into each character, even those random characters cheering in the stands.
Mobile video games services are no longer for “nerds” nor are they only for kids. They’re not just stopping at your home they are also popping up at community fairs, colleges, corporate parties, sporting events and parties ranging from all ages. Corporations are finding that co-op video games build teamwork skills, especially communication. Also it’s a great way to meet someone from your department or in other departments you wouldn’t normally interact with. Colleges are using them to help break the ice and nervousness freshmen can have when moving into campus. They also use them as a method to relieve the stress midterms and finals can bring.
What’s also great about the video game truck business is that anyone can be a part of the business. It’s a business that reflects the ever growing presence of video games, which has become as routine as watching television and movies. GameTruck, (just one of many companies) offers three vehicle models; a gooseneck tow-behind trailer, a V-nose trailer or an RV unit. Franchisees purchase the trailers from the company and buy their own tow-vehicle. The initial investment can range from $135,000 to $185,000, depending on the trailer model. Franchisees pay a $9,500 franchising fee and monthly royalties of 7% of gross revenue. Flexibility in operations is a important selling point for GameTruck franchisees. While some franchisees run the business as a full-time job, others just book the truck on weekends. The trucks can be stored in RV lots or the franchisee’s own property.
When Didier Monin was laid off from Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast after 14 years on the job he turned to concept to pay his bills. Ken Levey, another franchisee, signed the ten-year franchising agreement and drove his truck to Warren, New Jersey from Nappanee, Indiana. Fox Business even took notice of this growing trend when GameTruck awarded its Chicago branch for setting the most number of events on one “rig” in one month: 67.
Novis hopes to generate more business for his franchisees by using the trucks for educational programs, something that was started locally in Phoenix in 2010. He recently partnered with The Learning Care Group, a child-care provider with over a thousand schools nationwide, teaching the importance of entrepreneurship. It’s also making stops at local businesses, which are renting the truck for presentations and teaching seminars. To date Novis one little idea has generated over 70 billion dollars in sales worldwide and it was recently announced these trucks will be making their way to Canada as well as other parts of the United States.
Not bad huh? So the next time someone tells you “the gaming industry is dead” you point them to the nearest GameTruck party or website. The smiles and joys of screaming punch drunk love adults, attentive employees and hyperactive kids will more than prove them wrong. If that doesn’t do it, I’m sure the 4-D TV screens hooked up to N64 and GameCube will silence them faster than Helen Keller.