Mobile video arcade brings the party to revelers
When Mitch McKay was first approached about the idea of a mobile video game franchise from his friend, he didn't know what to think.
Aren't kids supposed to step outside and get some fresh air?
But then his business sense kicked it. The idea, Games2U, that his friend Robert Silverman approached him with made perfect sense.
"I realized that video games are the things kids love to do," McKay said. "But if we could combine other elements to the experience to make them engaged and healthy, then we could have something that is successful."
This duo's franchise based out of Concord is a Mercedes Sprinter Van that is equipped with three large screen TV's and an Xbox 360 system inside. Outside there are two screens and a Wii system. An electronic awning on the outside keeps players in the shade.
Initially Silverman thought of the possibility of doing a smoothie franchise, but he wasn't convinced it was the right opportunity. He wanted something completely unique.
"When we looked at franchises, we wanted a traditional brick and mortar type deal that would be low overhead and fairly simple to run," said Silverman, who is also an attorney in Walnut Creek. "When we saw the concept of bringing a unique child party right to their doorstep, it seemed like a great idea."
Not only does McKay and Silverman own the Concord franchise, but they have the rights to 30 to 35 other areas that they hope to sell and help expand to the entire Bay Area. The initial cost of running the franchise is about $150,000 to $175,000, which includes the van, operating capital and a $35,000 franchise fee.
There are also two other activities that allow kids to get some exercise.
One is a laser tag game where kids duck and shoot each other. Up to 20 can play at a time.
And the current favorite is not electronic at all. Most popular is a giant "hamster" ball that kids get into and get pushed around by their peers. Soon an adult size one will be available as well.
"Here we have this fantastic van that costs $100,000, and the thing kids talk about the most is this giant inflatable ball," McKay said.
During the summer, the van makes its ways to both birthday parties and summer camps.
In just four months of operation, more than 30 parties have been run, and 30 more are scheduled for this month.
The cost of a party can range from $229 to $429 depending on the length and how many events you choose. The most popular is the $379 package that lasts 90 minutes and includes two events.
The franchise does have some of the popular, yet more violent, games such as Halo available, but if it's to be played at the party, every parent must sign approval.
"The idea of being able to come out to us is great, because it's not something you are able to do everyday," said Samantha Arlen, program director with the YMCA. "I'm not sure if we would do it if it were just the games, but the variation of what they have to offer is great."
In the fall, McKay and Silverman plan to shift their attention to the adults and offer business builder events and company offices.