In such a competitive landscape, how does a developer possibly stand out when trying to land a deal a game publisher? Perfect World's VP of business development John Young shares what he looks for in a pitch.
As a developer, you're only in the market to find a publisher every few years, but publishers are courting developers constantly. How do you stand out? What goes on after you leave the room? How specific should you be, when you don't really know yet what you have? What can you do to be the "must-do deal"?
Of course, you need a great game and a great team. But you've already got that, right? So, what can you do to avoid common mistakes, make a lasting impression and convince us to work with you? We started talking internally after meeting with hundreds of developers through the years, and a top 10 list was born. Here's what publishers would love developers to know:
Let's start at the beginning -- the request for a meeting.
We get plenty of LinkedIn requests, and what works best is a short, pointed message that moves the conversation to regular email. What we'd love to see is: "Hi. We have an action RPG made by Will Wright, with a $3 million budget. If you send me your work email, I'd love to send more details." (I'd feel really happy if I got this email, as I did in my dream last night.)
However, far too often we see a long and twisty essay, the point of which is often never found. The worst part about these pudding-like requests is they are embedded into the LinkedIn invitation. This means if we want to accept you as a contact, we lose the essay. It turns out, unsurprisingly, to be much easier to ignore the whole request.
Use LinkedIn for initial seduction only. Send a tantalizing but to-the-point message and keep the courtship to meetings and Outlook.
Another great way to get noticed by publishers and financiers is to come at us from someone we trust. We like it when we've made money with someone before and can speak freely with them and trust their judgment on new contacts.
If you don't have such a relationship with the person you want to pitch to, find someone who does. There are a number of networking events, meetups, and conferences developers can take advantage of in order to meet others in the industry.
Or consider getting an agent. DDM, CAA, ISM, UTA -- these intermediaries make our lives easier by bringing extensive knowledge of the industry to bear on the courtship process. Having your own personal Ari Gold can be very helpful at breaking through and getting noticed.
Part of our sense of well-being -- and some days our apparent purpose in life -- is to clear out our email inboxes. We really do want to give a timely response to every request that comes in, especially considering that it may contain the opportunity to discover the next Portal or League of Legends.
But when we go to a conference or a developer roadshow, our ability to check email is practically nonexistent. When we look at our inboxes afterward, it's like sedimentary layers of encrusted history, with fossils of things we don't need anymore. Your awesome pitch might be somewhere down there.
You may think your idea is so great that anyone hearing about it would come back from vacation to fund it, but the reality is that you should track when industry events take place, not only so you can attend and network, but so you can be aware that any emails sent during that time are most likely getting lost.
Having spent plenty of time on the "buy side", it's clear that the publisher/financier mindset is much more receptive when your pitch comes at a less busy time.
Convoluted pitches make life more difficult for us, as most business development people are often fairly simple. We haven't spent as much time with your baby as you have. We might not have read your deck completely. We sometimes key in on details that are not the essence of what you want to sell.
So when you come at us with a complex pitch for a genre-busting game that transforms the way players relate to each other, we might not understand what you're really trying to build. Or worse, we imagine what we want to hear, not what you're trying to convey.
So a simple catchphrase is really helpful at the start of your pitch. When you tell us that you want to make "Gears of War meets Tribes", we can understand the rest of your pitch easier. Try this at home: Can you imagine "League of Legends meets NBA Street"? How about "Hero Academy with deck-building"? or "Neverwinter Nights meets FarmVille"? These are slightly disguised versions of pitches we've received recently at Perfect World. Such phrases sound trite and don't do justice to the subtleties of your design, but they really, really help us to get a sense of what you want to build.
Remember, we're simple people. You can fill us in on the details later, after you have our interest.