A guide to nailing that publisher pitch
When you’re meeting a publisher face to face or through a video call in one of our indie game business events, you need to be ready to tell all crucial information about your game and answers certain questions. The publisher needs to be confident that this is the game you’re actually building, not a game in idea stage you want funded. In this blog I will inform you what questions to expect and how to present yourself and your game in a professional way.
Yes, probably your overall goal is to make a fun game, but this is also business. The goal here is to get published, so make sure to act professionally. If you want your game and your company to be taken seriously, you need to take these meetings seriously: Be on time, be presentable and be sharp.
We as an industry don’t fit well into the normal corporate dress codes. What constitutes “business casual” in games? If in doubt, look at the presenters at the press events we see at E3 and other shows. You are meeting with publishers, the “suits” of the industry. You will have meetings with teams that are dressed in business suits, and you’ll have meetings with teams in jeans and t-shirts. Be who you are, but be aware of your audience. Do the basics, shower (yes, I need to say that) and make sure you don’t have stains on your shirt or jacket. When it comes to the clothes I recommend a collared shirt or a nice t-shirt with a jacket. If you aren’t comfortable wearing an outfit to a nice restaurant, don’t wear it to a business meeting.
Know Who You Are Dealing With
Do your due diligence on the company and understand the titles that they have published in the past.
- Check the company’s website for submission guidelines.
- Make sure you know the publisher’s submission rules and clauses.
- Sites such as SteamSpy, MetaCritic and App Annie can help you understand what the publisher does best.
The Elevator Pitch
A pitch could be a casual, written introduction you send via email, or an upbeat 10-second verbal presentation while waiting in line for coffee. No matter the method of delivery, your pitch should cover the following four points.
- Sell yourself and your experience. “I’ve worked with global publishers and developers for over 20 years.”
- State your business goal. “We put great games and technology in the hands of great teams.”
- Identify a pain point and back it up with data. “I understand you’ve pitched to two dozen companies, but we track over 4,000 developers and another 500+ publishers”
- Explain how you will fix it. “Our decades of experience, backed with data from the industry, ensure that we know the companies our clients are looking for.”
Know Your Game
This should go without saying, but you will be amazed at how many people working on a game do not honestly know what the core concept or the core game loop of their own game is. You should be able to recite the design of your game to everyone and anyone at any time. It shouldn’t be based upon ‘I was thinking’ or ‘I am pretty sure’, it should be based upon the game itself: don’t pitch an idea; pitch the game. Know your game, know the audience, be confident in why your project is cool, who your team is, what makes your game original or unique, what it can be compared to, what the project status is and determine the approximate release date.
Know Your Dates
With any development life cycle, there are dates when elements of that cycle are expected to be done. You need to know the dates of your major milestones even though you might have only a vague idea of when the game is coming out. You aren’t the only one chasing a date, the publisher needs to know when you expect the game to ship as they also have internal timelines that need to be reckoned with. A good starting point is to know your Alpha/Beta/Release Candidate and Gold Candidate dates.
Know Your Competition
So what sets your game apart? It is vital that you know your competition from different points of view. How is your game different than X? If you game does compare to X, how did that game do on the market? What other titles are coming out in the same time windows as yours? Knowing the answers to these questions convinces the publisher that you understand the market and know the risks.
The Long Run
When talking to publishers, keep in mind that they aren’t just focusing on the game, but also looking at the team behind the project. They are going to ask questions about you, your team and what you have shipped. If they feel this game will be a success, then they aren’t going to just publish with you once. They want a developer that they can work with in the long run.
Now get out there and pitch your game! And don’t screw it up! But if you do, learn from it, roll with it, and make it better the next time!