Alex Butler is 9 years old, and he’s cracked the Top Ten for best-selling games on all of Amazon for Taco vs Burrito, a game he created when he was 7.
Yes, you read that right.
“Adults always think he’s making it up, the first time they hear about it,” says his mom, Leslie Pierson.
But it’s true. They’d always been a family of game players, ever since Alex was little. On trips, they would play a new card game every day, and evaluate which ones they liked best. Alex loved strategy; he’d study up on a new game so he could win right away.
Then one day when Alex was 7, he announced he wanted to make his own game, and it was going to be called “Taco vs Burrito.”
“I didn’t think he was going to make a game, I thought he was just joking around,” his mom says.
But Alex stuck with it. He came up with the concept, made cards and tested them.
Every weekend, he and his mom would walk their dog, Humphrey, to Café Bambino so she could get coffee and they would play his game. On the two-block walk home, he’d come up with ways to improve it. The first versions were terrible, but over the next six months, Alex fine-tuned the cards.
Alex launched his Kickstarter last year on March 1. By 1 p.m., he’d already hit his goal of $1,000. His mom picked him up from school and they headed to Comic-Con, where he demonstrated his game to adults at the annual convention while dressed in a taco costume. At the end of his Kickstarter, he’d raised $24,312, $15 at a time.
“It was insane,” Pierson says. “I couldn’t believe it was going so well. It just grew and grew and grew. People were really supportive. The good thing about Kickstarter is people are a lot more open to start something. And the ‘kid inventor’ played into it.”
The premise of Taco vs Burrito is simple: Players draw from a deck of wacky cards trying to assemble the biggest meal to win the game. You might get moldy bread, hot yogurt or chocolate-covered shrimp (remember, a kid designed this game). But watch out for the health inspector, who will make you dump all your food out. The game is highly strategic, easy to learn and really fun for kids and adults.
Alex picked his manufacturer based on the funny name of the company (Bang Wee Games). They shipped out Taco vs Burrito over Labor Day weekend, and sent the extras to Amazon. It was an instant hit. That month, he made more than $20,000 and the game sold out. Sales climb even higher with each month.
Taco vs Burrito has ranked as high as ninth of all the games on Amazon. In the past 30 days alone, Alex has sold more than 2,000 games. Since launching last November, Taco vs Burrito has sold more than 10,000 units.
The money from sales stays in the business.
“If we had $30,000 of Pokémon cards in the house, that would be a waste,” says his mom. Alex gets to take out 1 percent of his earnings, which then gets split into savings and donations. Not that he’s a big spender or anything. Alex has been pet-sitting since he was 3, and his rate hasn’t changed: $1 a day. (Pro advice from Alex: “If you only charge a little bit of money, they tip really big.”)
Despite making a blockbuster game, Alex turned down speaking engagements and an opportunity to be on CNBC. “He’s not a little Bill Gates or anything. He is totally a regular fourth-grader,” Pierson says.
What’s next for the kid game inventor? Alex and his mom are working on a remake of Old Maid, called Bold Made. Instead of avoiding getting “stuck with the old maid,” Bold Made features inspiring women.
Alex’s advice for other kids: “If you want to make a game, you should go for it! Just make sure to do a ton of work and play-testing to make it great!”
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