Pitching a game can be tough at the best of times. But with physical events cancelled for the foreseeable future and working from home the correct norm during the coronavirus outbreak, game makers need to think a little differently about how to pitch games for funding from publishers.
Fortunately, much of the great advice on pitching for investment or support for your game is evergreen and will stand the test of time. But there are a few adjustments you can make in the short term.
Here are some tips from a range of publishers on how to structure your work so that it can be as effective as possible when pitched from afar.
Get the basics down in writing
Callum Underwood, Consultant at RobotTeddy, Scout at Kowloon Nights & Oculus and Director of Special Projects at SUPERHOT
Send publishers video of your game, send a build and send budget. The budget should include: 1. the total number of money you need and what it's for (is it just for dev or does it cover marketing etc too) and 2. a breakdown so we can see what money is going where. You should also send a deck if you have one with basic info about the game (why are you building it, who is on the team, what have you done before, what is the game about etc)
Perfect the prototype
Cassia Curran, WINGS Interactive
It's always been the case for WINGS that developers pitch their games to us via our online application form at https://wingsfund.me/. And for us, it's really important that pitches have a prototype.
For the prototype, you need to be showcasing what's special about your game. For example, if you are pitching a narrative game, I'd recommend to have a complete short section of the game with beautiful art and an intriguing narrative that makes us want to stay exploring your world - then your pitch for funds to us is essentially a pitch to finish the game at the same level of quality.
On the other hand, for a game that is based around an innovative game mechanic, you wouldn't need quality art in the prototype, but the game mechanic would have to be very playable and fun.
Know your ‘X Statement’
Fernando Rizo, Modern Wolf
Know what makes your game weird, and communicate that in an "X statement". I don't need to tell you how crowded the marketplace is for games right now: if there's nothing attention-grabbingly different about your game, it's going to struggle to get interest from publishers. Even worse: there is something genuinely unique about your pitch but you can't get it across succinctly.
Every pitch in the AAA universe starts with a X statement: a simple comparison that borrows from already-familiar concepts to quickly communicate (and generate curiosity about) a new concept. So just for example:
LA Noire meets The X-Files but Mulder is secretly an alien
Football Manager for James Bond's MI6 (someone please pitch me this IRL)
Dead Cells with guns inside a clockwork fortress that changes every real-time hour
With an X-statement, you can start painting a picture of your game in a publisher's mind in the first sentence of your email.
Write standout emails
Mike Rose, Founder, No More Robots
Make sure your email is as standout as possible. Publishers get dozens of email pitches every day, and the truth is, they probably skim past most of them in the blink of an eye.
Put an eye catching gif at the top, max 3MB in size, then a quick one paragraph introducing yourself and the game. Pop a link to download the build, a link to watch an unlisted video on YouTube, and a link to a longer pitch deck that lists how much funding you’re looking for, and how long it will take to develop.
Structure your pitch for a remote world
Andrew Walker, Gameye
Be structured, suggest a meeting agenda beforehand and stick to it.
I've been involved with pitching remotely with my work at a number of publishers and developers. However, it's still an art that is only mastered by a few. The people that stood out to me suggest an agenda beforehand and stick to that agenda with a clear beginning, middle and end.
Always start with introductions for all sides, that way you can decide if you need to adjust your pitch to more or less technical or production oriented. It's also just a good way to get everyone to vocalize their presence and not drift.
Doing it remotely, you lose a bit of that ability to read the room so try to ignore that and keep moving forward as you present material or a demo, don't freak out if feedback is slow from the audience.
Always end with clear next steps based on any feedback or questions received. While that's good for any meeting, it is doubly important for presenting remotely. Come away with action points and at least a sense of what needs to happen next.
Don't forget to check off the checklist
Mitsuo Hirakawa, The Irregular Corp
In terms of material, I typically would like to see:
Pitch Doc (must have)
- Team background info
- Game high concept (do you have a snappy "X statement" that everyone will "get it" in 2 seconds? Does the game feel new/fresh enough?)
- Key features, scope, gameplay, progression etc.
- Competitive landscape ("Has the team done their homework?")
- What makes your game different/fresh?
Schedule (must have)
- Key milestone dates (pre-production, production, open beta's, Early Access, Full Launch, Post-Launch plans etc.)
Budget (must have)
- Monthly cost breakdown (job roles, headcount)
- How much £££ are you asking for? (consider any VC, angel investors, VGTR, grants, contingency. etc...)
Playable Build (optional, but very desirable)
- Demonstrate core gameplay that is representative of the final game
***Some publishers, like us, will sign games without a playable, but there has to be compelling reasons why, e.g. team has a great track record, you are making a sequel from a very successful first game, you have HUGE social media following, your game concept is truly unique (e.g. use of new technology/"first to market", "best in genre" proposals etc.)
Video (optional, but very desirable)
- Sizzler or gameplay focused edit (include commentary for extra bonus)
- Edit together a rip-o-matic (using games/films) to convey game style/feel/art (if you don't have any of your own game content)
- Art style reference
- Monthly milestone plan
Looking to get expert advice about pitching your game to publishers? Sign up to Games London's Business Hub - which is running on 30th-31st March - for free here.