Taking your project to a publisher can be a daunting task. Here’s our little guide of tips and tricks to help you prepare and execute your pitch to game publishers.
5 Things You Need
A Well-Presented Deck
Not all decks are equal, a deck that is both visually pleasing and cuts to the core information will always outperform better than others. You may think that a deck is just a tool to relay information, but, a good deck tells a story. A deck must be able to accurately pitch the game as well as you would in person.
It is worth spending resources to ensure your deck is attractive and attentive to detail. In some cases, your deck might be the first thing and the last thing a publisher will look at so putting the best step forward is vital. Ensure that not only your development timeline and budget are easy to read but also that the whole deck flows in a way that makes sense to the reader.
A deck should include:
- Team introduction with any previous experience.
- The elevator pitch (the core hook of the game).
- The vision from a consumer’s perspective
- Key features breakdown.
- Project timeline and budget.
- Key info such as planned platforms, price point, competitor analysis, and target audience.
- Key assets and links that include a website, trailer, gameplay video, screenshots, key art, and logo.
One thing publishers need to know is accurate numbers for the cost of development. What are your estimates? What are the fixed costs, and what is the burn rate? What areas is the money going to? All these things are needed to be taken seriously.
Publishers will expect to have realistic expected costs and will also expect to see a full breakdown and timeline of those costs. Without it, it’s very difficult to have any sort of meaningful conversation and will instantly put the majority off taking the conversation any further. If a publisher is set to fund some of the development, that is an investment and to make an investment, they will expect an honest view of the costs.
A Vertical Slice
A playable build or a gameplay video is a great tool to provide a look into the concept you’re talking about. While in some cases this is not always possible for early concept pitches, even a pre-alpha vertical slice showing a few of the key features goes a long way to showing you can do what you say you will do. Things like this build real credibility and can be a huge key to securing a deal when executed well.
Getting the core hook of your game right is one of those things that sounds easy but, is pretty difficult to nail. It’s one thing to say our game is “Doom meets Cyberpunk” but its entirely different to accurately articulate “Supernatural sci-fi RPG” to any degree that both is truly representative of the game but also gets someone excited by the very concept and sparks the imagination to immerse them into a world just with a sheer description.
It is however really worth spending time to get right and to think about what the target audience’s reaction will be to said pitch. Like with any creative process you’ll probably have to come up with many pitches and then siphon through to pick out the best one.
Some great guidelines for the elevator pitch are:
- It should be short and to the point
- It should identify your unique selling proposition or what makes your game different from similar titles in the genre.
- It should evoke an emotion, one thing everyone, including many marketers, forgets is that any form of good marketing comes from sparking real emotion.
- Try putting yourself in the shoes of others such as the press, influencers, or the average gamer. How would you feel about it if you were them?
- If “Futuristic Sci-fi Puzzle Platformer” isn’t getting the blood pumping as you had hoped, try alternative strategies. Story over description may be better, depending on what game you’re making it may be better to sell the concept over a generic genre description. “Journey through a dark dystopian future where man and machine intertwine, and a new cult of zealots have taken the reins of power” sounds more enticing than “Futuristic Sci-fi Puzzle Platformer”
- Practice, practice, practice. Imagine someone just asked you what you are working on and to describe it in 30 seconds or less.
The truth is visuals sometimes speak louder than words. Whether you’re pitching to a publisher or trying to get someone to purchase, the principle remains the same, If it looks good they will look more, if it doesn’t they won’t.
Spend time, resources, and money to ensure your visuals, including screenshots, key art, trailers, or gameplay presentations look awesome. It will be the difference between being interested and not. No matter how good your oral presentation is, if the visuals are poor, it will stop publishers from being excited about the game and will cause a loss of confidence in your ability to execute.
10 Things To Do
- Be Confident – practice your presentation and be confident in your ability and knowledge. This comes across much better and helps build a publisher’s confidence in you.
- Be transparent and honest – Be upfront and honest about everything from costs to challenges without getting stuck in the weeds. An accurate picture of the project is much appreciated by publishers.
- Be prepared – Make sure you come to any pitch well prepared and plan for typical questions you may get.
- Know your audience – demonstrate your knowledge of the target audience for the game. This shows you have built the product with commercial viability in mind versus a bubble passion project.
- Know your numbers – Know your projected costs and needs inside and out, there’s nothing more frustrating that asking financial questions to get no answer especially if you are seeking development funds.
- Know your timeline – be prepared to answer questions about the development timeline and milestones.
- Introduce your team – make sure to upsell your teams’ skills and previous experience. This can build great legitimacy.
- Highlight your key features – make sure to highlight all your game’s key features with particular attention to anything that makes the game unique or different. Keep them short and to the point.
- Connect with the other person – when giving your oral presentation, a great trick to use is to talk with the publisher and not at them. Phrases like “I bet you are like me” and “Just imagine” are great ways to spark someone’s engagement.
- Show you can deliver – From the deck to the vertical slice, make sure you show and not just tell. Try an show that you can deliver on what you are trying to create and that it isn’t just a bunch of people with a pipedream without the infrastructure to pull it off.
10 Things NOT To Do
- Don’t focus on standard systems – when showing off the game features avoid focusing on standard features for the genre. If presenting an RPG for example don’t focus on a standard inventory system, your time is limited to stick to the unique ones.
- Don’t showcase a walking sim – Use your gameplay demo or vertical slice wisely. Showing a character walking down a hall is not difficult to achieve and shows nothing about the intended features. Instead, make something that shows off the core features and showcases your development skills. Prove that you can do it.
- Don’t be rude under critique – Many publishers will give you constructive criticism and feedback. Some might be tied to making the game more accessible or commercially viable. Don’t become defensive and rude. It is a sure way to end it right there.
- Don’t oversell – be honest in your game’s scope, don’t promise things that won’t be there, or exaggerate on features. There’s a difference between selling it up and just outright misrepresenting it.
- Don’t just pitch a clone – Make sure you have something different. Don’t just come into the pitch with “its Darkest Dungeon” there has to be something different about it and if there isn’t, it would be better to go back to the drawing board instead of a publisher.
- Don’t go looking for them to create the game for you – Unless a publisher is contracting you to make a game they want, they will expect you to design and execute the game development. Don’t come to a publisher with an idea and seek for them to make it.
- Don’t pitch the wrong publisher – Before any meeting or indeed, any outreach. Make sure you know the publisher you are pitching to. What kind of games do they do? Who is their main audience? What are their services? What platforms do they do? Think about these things before you go pitching a mobile game to a PC-only publisher.
- Don’t pitch too early – Make sure you are ready and have the pitch materials and your studio ready. Coming to pitch a publisher before you have even put the team together is not a great way to move forward.
- Don’t compare to outlier successes – When presenting your comparative and competitive titles, especially regarding any kind of revenue forecasts avoid hyper-successful games. There’s nothing worse than a developer coming in and saying their making a souls-like and then the two games that they based their forecasts on are Elden Ring and Bloodborne. It’s not realistic and it means your basing your expectations on outlier hyper successes rather than a more realistic baseline.
- Don’t leave without a follow-up – Don’t walk away from a publisher pitch without a strong closing. Ask when a good time to follow up will be or try to book a follow-up meeting in a few weeks. Publishers look at tons of games so getting any kind of follow-up commitment can really help stay at the top of the pile.