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When pitching your game, KISS
When pitching your game, KISS
September 11, 2012 | By Christian Nutt

September 11, 2012 | By Christian Nutt
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"We haven't spent as much time with your baby as you have. We might not have read your deck completely."
- John Young, Perfect World vice president of business development.

What advice does Perfect World's VP of biz dev have for developers who pitch their games to him? Like the old saying goes: Keep it simple, stupid.

"Convoluted pitches make life more difficult for us, as most business development people are often fairly simple," writes Young. "We haven't spent as much time with your baby as you have."

While your game may be a genre-buster chockablock with completely original ideas, that's not the way to get someone's interest piqued at the beginning, he suggests.

"When you tell us that you want to make 'Gears of War meets Tribes', we can understand the rest of your pitch easier.

"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," Young writes. "Remember, we're simple people. You can fill us in on the details later, after you have our interest."

The worst outcome he mentions is that if your description isn't clear, your prospective publisher might "imagine what we want to hear, not what you're trying to convey" -- which could create serious problems down the line.

This advice comes as part of Young's feature on pitching, which has nine more tips from the biz dev exec about approaching publishers with your ideas.


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Comments


Frank Cifaldi
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I always KISS when I ask someone for money.

Russ Menapace
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Which bit of anatomy?

John Woznack
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I see no good reason to pitch anything to publishers these days.

You have the next mega-hit game idea? Fantastic. Go build it and self-publish. If people like it (i.e. you make tons of money selling it yourself), THEN you can approach a publisher for a wider distribution channel, if you're so inclined to such irrational insanity.

Remember: Publishers aren't in business to give you money or help you create/grow your company. They exist to make money on other people's creations for themselves. (And any publisher that says differently is sitting across the table from a fool.)

Chris Lynn
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They mean a pre-production pitch, the one where they invest in your project so you can make the game.

John Woznack
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@Chris Lynn: Yes, I know. And that's exactly why I stated that I see no good reason to pitch anything to publishers these days.

IMHO, if you have a game "in pre-production" and you're looking for funding, asking a publisher for an "investment" is the worst thing you can do. Look for angel investor(s), or venture capitalist(s) instead. Only after your game is complete, and you've turned a profit selling copies on your own should you even think about talking to a publisher. (And even then I'd say you should think twice about it.)

A S
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@John: You've answered yourself.

///

"THEN you can approach a publisher for a wider distribution channel, if you're so inclined to such irrational insanity".

///

So you believe going to a publisher for a pitch as wrong-headed, and also going to publisher post-production as "irrational". Clearly you have something against publishers and it would help us all if you'd just come out and say that, rather than pretending the model is b0rked (it isn't). Yeah publishers make money on your games, but so do you, and you unlikely have the following :- dedicated experienced marketing experts, business relationships with retailers, advertisers, journos.

That being said, I don't disagree with you, but I just think you should go in with your eyes open, knowing that it's a 2 way street, you are getting a lot, and in return you have to produce something that meets their expectations.

John Woznack
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@ A S: Before 1992, if you wanted to sell your video game, your options in reaching many customers were pretty limited. But then id Software came along and proved that the traditional publishing channels weren't always necessary. Today I firmly believe that given the current state of technology and the internet, indie and start-up VG developers don't need a publisher, unless they want their game on a closed platform. And even then I would argue that closed platforms are not the ideal place for indies or start-ups. (Hence why I added " if you're so inclined to such irrational insanity" to my initial comments.)

"...you are getting a lot..."

I totally disagree with you on this point. Pre-1992 you may be right, but not today.

Exactly what value does a publisher offer today that you can't do yourself?

Marketing? Advertisers?
The internet has tons of ways to market a new game, and most of them are either free or cost very little money. And if your game is fantastic, word of mouth will generate far more advertising than any publisher could possibly achieve, given the same cost.

Business relationships with retailers?
So you want your game to show up on the shelves at GameStop? Why? Digital downloads are all the rage now. Why do you want all the headaches and costs associated with physical inventory when you have better options to get your product to your customers? In my opinion, physical media publication/distribution is only necessary for those closed consoles that require them.

"...and in return you have to produce something that meets their expectations."

Oh, so your willing to give up a degree of control over your game in order to meet a publisher's expectations in return for...what exactly? A little money every month? The opportunity to have your game published by them? I'm sure most indie VG developers have chosen to BE indie specifically to avoid losing any degree of control over their game(s).

Now, do I have "something against publishers"? No. I simply believe that today they offer little value for the cost of their services. Indies and start-ups are far better off doing all of these things themselves. I only suggested that AFTER you have completed your game and reaped as much profit out of selling it yourself might you consider approaching a publisher. But even at that point I believe a publisher could offer you very little value for the cost of "official" publication.

Danny Bernal
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reminds me of this:
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/music_industry

I'm fairly sure it can translate to the game industry in a way :P
we're all moving away from the middle men towards direct relations with our fans.

...A picture really can speak a thousand words or so which you have tried to express lol.


A S
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Your logic might hold up for smaller teams, but unless you have serious scratch no one's producing an AAA title via that method. Angel investing is not really feasible for bigger numbers that require consistent monthly incomings, and the bar for VCs (and the ownership and governance requirements) are higher and much more onerous than publishers, who are essentially a specialized form of VC for games.

I guess from your post you're thinking of the Indie world, but it worth remembering that Gama covers the full gamut of game makers upto multi-million titles.

Regarding ownership, of course you have to give up part of your game, you can't expect to get something for nothing. I don't mean to sound combative, but if you get so little from publishers and can easily replicate the services they provide, then do it. I suspect you may find it's harder than you imagined.


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