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Pitching Your Game To A Publisher - Tips and Advice

by Stas Ignatov on 10/06/20 09:30:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Are you developing a game and have recently thought of partnering with a publishing company? Or maybe you’re planning ahead, before starting to work on your first project?

In either case, you’ve come to the right place. This guide’s goal is to provide you with all the information required to present your game to a publisher — and do a great job of it!

Part I —The (In)famous Pitch Deck

Let’s start with the basics. The first steps between a game developer and a publisher usually involve a Game Pitch (also called a Pitch Deck) — a short presentation of the game’s features, its strongest selling points, and your vision of its development.

Building a solid pitch deck can be a challenge even for veteran developers. This is why, in the next few paragraphs, we’re going to share our best tips on the matter. Use these suggestions to create a great pitch deck of your own:

Step 1: Give Your Game A Proper Introduction

This is, perhaps, one of the most important parts: it sets the baseline of expectations for any additional information that comes after. A good introduction should cover these points:

  • Elevator pitch — To start off strong, try to combine all of the game’s coolest parts in one short, but sweet sentence. Maybe, your game is “Enter The Gungeon meets farming”, or “Doom as a rhythm game”. Whatever it is, make it fun and appealing! This gives an immediate understanding of what kind of product a publisher is dealing with, and whether it suits their lineup.
  • Key information about the game and its features — Everyone needs to be on the same page, knowing exactly what the game is about.
  • Project’s most important features and innovations — Which features make your game stand out? Which features are you the most excited about? If you can, showcase these features in your pitch with pictures or video!

Remember: there’s no second chance to make a first impression — so make sure that your intro perfectly encapsulates everything that’s unique and exciting about the game!

Avoid using “big words” with little to no details, i.e.: “Holistic gameplay experience”, “Unique, immersive, & fully explorable” etc. Be specific — and explain how exactly you are going to achieve what you’re talking about.

Step 2: Add Some General Information

Now that the basics are out of the way, it’s time to delve a bit deeper into what your project will be about. Your pitch deck should include a few slides that give the publisher a general idea of the game, its scope, and its unique features.

We’ll explore some of these further down the guide but, for now, here’s a list of vital data you need to add to your pitch. As they are the most important information about your game, every pitch deck should include:

  • Game’s Title
  • Genre
  • Core List Of Features
  • Visual Style
  • Required Budget (if applicable)
  • Team Info

Step 3: Showcasing Your Game

During the pitch you will have to, in one way or another, show the publisher your game. Of course, there’s a lot of intricacies involved with that — with most of them depending on how much of the game you can actually show.

With that being said, let’s get through the key ideas in how to best showcase your game:

  • Start with your strongest point — Begin by showing something that will grip the audience. There’s something that makes your game shine, even in its unfinished state: its visual style, a gameplay feature, or even the narrative component — whatever it is, show it first!
  • Best Practices — Of course, the best way to show off your project would be letting the publishers play the currently available version of the game — with a list of available features and development time spent as a cherry on top. And if you don’t think the game’s ready to be played yet — just record a gameplay session at home!
  • Fake it till you make it — As mentioned in the previous point, having a prototype is key. And if you don’t have one available — why not try to make one? Even a “proof of concept” video, showcasing the creator’s intent, will help everyone understand your idea better.
  • Visualize your gameplay, if possible — Enhancing your gameplay feature explanations with visual aid will help others understand what your game is all about — and what exactly makes it fun to play.
  • Give others a feel for the game’s final visual style. — Whether through concept art, in-game models or any other assets, it’s really important to relay your plans for the game’s final look.

Step 4: Introducing Your Team

Games are often seen as a sterile product of modern technology, born from a void that most consumers have no clues about. But, as a developer, you know too well that’s not the case.

There’s a lot of work behind even the smallest of games.Now that you’ve shown your title, it’s time to introduce the people who’ll help bring it to life!

  • Present the team in its entirety — and if you’re thinking about bringing more people on board would help, don’t forget to mention it in the pitch!
  • Showcase the team’s merits… — Whether you’re a lifelong fan of the genre, or an experienced developer full of insights and ideas — show the publisher all the reasons why you are the perfect team for this particular game!
  • …And their technical capabilities — Games nowadays are getting more and more technically complex, so outlining your team’s technical skills is just as important!

Step 5: Crunching The Numbers

As publishers will likely take an active role in the development of your game, they’ll need to know more about its current state and the resources you’ll need to complete the project.

Providing an estimate of the game’s budget and development time will greatly help both parties understand the situation. Not only that, the effort of researching the necessary info goes a long way towards showing your dedication to the project.

This information needs to be present in your document:

  • Game Budget — This part is essential, as it greatly helps investors (and you!) assess the scale of the project, as well as the financial risks involved.
  • Development Timeline — This document should cover the particulars of your plan to develop the game, from start to finish — the more detailed, the better! In the document, don’t forget to identify the exact point your team is currently at — that will make the timeline much clearer.
  • Development Backlog — If you’ve already started development, tell the publisher all about it! What did you do, how did you do it, and how long did it take — once again, don’t shy away from details!

Step 6: Marketing Ideas

While working on the game, you’ve probably had some ideas about the people who’d enjoy playing it. Or maybe you’ve given some thought to how to properly showcase your game’s strong sides, to engage the people who’d enjoy it. If you did — then add these to your pitch:

  • Target Audience — Who are the people that will be interested in your product? What unites them? Which games are they playing right now? What other media do they enjoy?
  • The Main Message — Which of the game’s features will be of most interest to its intended audience? What would be the best way to bring attention to these features?
  • Your Ideas On Marketing — If you have any particular ideas on how the game should be promoted, this would be a perfect spot to communicate that.

Understanding the game’s intended audience, as well as the desired perception of your game by this audience, is key to a successful game launch.

Step 7: Assessing The Risks

There’s no denying that developing a game is a risky endeavor. From production to distribution and reception, there’s a number of things that could go wrong. These are risks that the publisher will want to know before they decide to collaborate on your game.

In addition, accurately describing the possible risk factors of the game’s development puts your foresight and planning skills on display — which is crucial in gaining publisher’s trust.

As you’re building your pitch deck, you should always:

  • Make an accurate list — Specify the risks, both external and internal, that could impede game development.
  • Fight or adapt — After you’ve gathered the risks, you’ll need to communicate how exactly you’ll proceed with making the game knowing them. Will you tackle those risks head-on? Or adapt your plans accordingly?

In this case, it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, so be sure to include all of the risks that come to mind.

Step 8: Asking For The Right Kind of Help

Expressing your exact desires from a publisher relationship is just as important as describing the game itself. Before approaching the publisher, you need to know exactly what you require from the publisher to finish your game — and to make it successful.

This part of your pitch deck may include, but isn’t limited to:

  • Financial Investment
  • Marketing and Advertising
  • Quality Assurance Testing
  • Console Porting
  • Game Localization

Think of what parts of development and marketing you need most help with — and include that in your pitch. That way, both you and the publisher will know exactly what you’re looking for from the partnership.

Other Tips & Advice

  • Keep things vague, to a degree — While showing the game to the publisher, you may want to keep the detailed descriptions to a minimum. Try your best to communicate your expectations from the game in broad terms. For example, Player Stories (short stories about the situation will find him/herself in) are a great way of relating the game’s mechanics.
  • Don’t spend too much or too little time — setting up a Pitch Deck is an arduous, but still a very important process. Take your time, and make sure your document is polished and complete. Don’t dwell on it too much, though — otherwise you’ll start stressing over every little detail.
  • Value the publisher’s time — keep in mind that your pitch should be around 15 pages long. If you’ve got any additional information that you want to share in detail (for example, the game’s story or a more nuanced explanation of a game mechanic) — you can do so in a separate document, and send it along with the pitch.
  • Know the publisher’s forte — different publishing labels specialize in different things, and you should keep this in mind when contacting them. You wouldn’t want to pitch a match-3 mobile game to Devolver Digital, or an indie-metroidvania to Zynga — it’s just not what they do.
  • Maintain a realistic outlook — While creating your pitch, it’s important to keep your head cool, and think about your game realistically. Being too much of an optimist can be a negative thing — so when you, for example, say your game will sell a million copies in its first month, think of whether there’s something in your pitch that backs that claim.
  • Avoid unnecessary or potentially damaging information — Whether it’s unfinished assets, detailed descriptions of basic features, or other parts you don’t feel confident about — it’s best to leave them out of the presentation. Keeping the pitch short and sweet is the key to success!

To Sum Up…

While creating your pitch deck, keep these key points in mind:

  • Outline all the required information about the game, showing as much in-game footage as possible.
  • Describe your team’s technical capabilities, and let everyone know why you’re the perfect people to make this game.
  • Showcase your planning skills — include a development timeline from beginning to end, and a proposed release date for your game.
  • Don’t forget to include your desires from a publisher — budget, marketing, QA, localization etc.
  • And once again — keep things brief, yet intriguing! Publishers tend to respond to 15 pages pitches much more positively — compared to pitches that are 30 pages long or more.

Part II — Presenting Your Pitch

Now that you’ve prepared your Pitch Deck, it’s time to think on how to present it in the best way possible. After all, a Pitch Deck is only as good as the pitch itself!

Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider when pitching your game:

  • Don’t dwell on the details — Your main goal with pitching is to give a concise, yet complete presentation of the project. Try not to bloat it with information that doesn’t directly benefit your cause.
  • Present yourself, and your team, in the best light possible — After all, if things go well, you’ll be working with the people you’re pitching to. And you’ll be working with them for at least a few months (or maybe years!) — so making a good first impression certainly helps!
  • Show Confidence — This is your game first and foremost. Try to refrain from asking the publisher “what do they think” one too many times, or show yourself too open to any changes to the game.
  • Avoid direct comparison — While this might work well to describe some of the features your game might include, don’t sell your game short by directly comparing it to another title in general. No one wants “another Dark Souls”, or “a new Counter Strike” — these games already exist!
  • Get the tech ready — If showcasing live, putting your professionalism on display will increase your chances of success. Don’t pitch your game on a smartphone or a tablet device. Bring the devices you need to make your assets truly shine — a laptop, game controllers, headphones, whatever works best!
  • Be prepared — After the pitch, the publisher will probably have some questions for you, to better understand your case. You might find some of those questions to be uncomfortable — but try to keep your head high. To better prepare yourself, think of what these questions might be beforehand — and come up with a satisfying answer.

Useful Links

No guide would be complete without a few pointers to external resources. Luckily, we got you covered! Below is a list of free online resources related to this topic — these will help you prepare for pitching, as well as creating the Pitch Deck itself.

  • Pitch Decks — GameDocs.org hosts an archive of Game Design Documents and Pitch Decks from such well-known titles as Metal Gear Solid 2, Diablo, BioShock and Planescape: Torment.
  • Budget Template — This budget template, courtesy of The GameDev Business Handbook, will provide an insight into developing a budget of your own — use these templates as additional reference material.
  • Development Schedule — ProductPlan’s roadmap creation tool will be of high value for those with no prior experience in game development schedule planning, and the official guide will provide additional help.

A Few Closing Remarks

Even though you are now prepared to pitch your game project — the whole process might still seem overwhelming, at least a bit.

So keep in mind — the hardest part is already behind you. You already have a concept for a great game — a game that you and your team believe in. All that’s left is to make someone else believe in it too.

Best of luck!

Author: Andrey Sazhin, producer at META Publishing

You can reach us out here:

Website - https://metapublishing.io
Twitter - https://twitter.com/metapublishing
Discord - https://t.co/qq1R6Xrlc5?amp=1


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