Outside Game Stop in Independence, Brett Sturm and his son, Jerry, admitted that, yes, they had heard of it. The stuff of legend.
Outside Game Stop in Independence, Brett Sturm and his son, Jerry, admitted that, yes, they had heard of it.
The stuff of legend.
“Kind of sounds familiar,” Jerry said, lifting up on his toes. He looked up at his father and he shrugged his shoulders, admitting with a bit more confidence that he might had heard of it – maybe even seen it.
What is it again? he asked, and then nodded his head when told.
Fifteen miles down the road, in Lee’s Summit, is where the legend sits. A mobile trailer measuring 33 feet, it is filled with four Wiis, three PS3s, four Xboxes 360 Slims and many of the world’s most popular video games. There are four 46-inch televisions mounted on the wall and accompanying sound systems for each television above the seating, a single booth seat stretching the length of the trailer. It is dark inside, the walls custom painted a shiny black with white lights for added effect.
Welcome to Greg Kartsonis’ world, one that took him a few months to plan and 13 days to create. It’s a world he admittedly never immersed himself in too much when growing up as a kid.
“I’m not a big video gamer,” he said. “But I like gadgets, electronic stuff. I like computers and things like that.”
A few months ago, Kartsonis got the idea of starting his own mobile video game theater after watching a show he’s long since forgotten the title of about crazy business ideas. One of the ideas was a traveling video game theater. The concept interested him. After all, he thought, how could it not be popular in Eastern Jackson County, an area known for its quality of family life? And kids love gaming. It didn’t sound that crazy.
“Kids are crazy for it,” he said.
So he purchased the trailer in Kansas and had it custom made. Beyond the essential video game units and games, Kartsonis added a personal touch: the seating, which – connected to the video game units via wireless technology – translates the sounds and images on the screen into bounces and vibrations. And sometimes lurches that go straight into the players guts.
“It takes a lot of power to make the seating do what it does,” he said, putting on “Call of Duty, Black Ops,” the newest and most popular game to hit the market. “Playing this in here is pretty amazing. The graphics are unbelievable.”
As many as 16 players can play simultaneously inside the video theater. It’s a possible concept in a home setting, but like Kartsonis says: “Only if you have four large screen TVs and all these video game machines… I’ve heard of a group of people bringing over their TVs and consuls and plugging them all in, but it’s a lot of work.”
When Kartsonis opened his mobile trailer in late September, the reception was akin to controlled chaos. The kids loved it. And the parents did, too, because by gathering kids together to play games, it becomes a social event and not just “two or three kids, or even just one kid, playing.”
“It’s not just for kids, either,” he said. “I’ve had parties for adults, even parties for a few businesses, which use it to build team work.”
A family recently rented the trailer. From where Kartsonis watched outside, he could see “the trailer bouncing up and down,” a sign of the fun being had inside. About 35 people can play comfortably inside. They can stand and sit. In the future, he’d like to equip the trailer so that people outside can watch what’s going on inside. A 7,000-watt generator produces heat in the winter, air in the summer.
From a marketing standpoint, Kartsonis knows of only one other similar mobile theater in the area.
“With the population in this area, I think this will be a good fit. There’s more than enough room.”
The concept is catching on. Earlier this year, GameTruck, a mobile gaming business based in Tempe, Ariz., announced that it expected to generate about $2.4 million in revenue in 2010, according to the Phoenix Business Journal. And that’s when the economy was just beginning to rebound. The company started small (one man and one trailer). Now it has 22 franchised locations, 88 employees nationwide and dozens of trailers.
While the trailer is based in Lee’s Summit, Kartsonis has journeyed north more and more in the last month. He’s been to Bass Pro in Independence, hockey games at the Independence Events Center and in Blue Springs. His mission now is to cross market: in the coming months, he’s planning on bringing the trailer to Missouri Mavericks games and hosting hockey games.
That will take some planning on his part.
“I’ll have to get the new hockey games and learn them,” he said, laughing. “A lot of times the kids know more about the games than I do, which is normal, I guess.”
The trailer can be brought most anywhere for most any occasion. He’s hosted three private events so far, each party averaging about two hours. When he brings the trailer, Kartsonis stays on scene to make sure everything works properly and that kids aren’t playing games they’re not supposed to.
“This isn’t the arcades you remember from back when,” Kartsonis said before pausing. “Are those even around anymore?”