Category Archives: Pitching
We’re not lobbing softballs here. Wing back and heave a fastball over the plate! This page has information for pitching your game design.
Hi. I’ve had an incredibly busy year with many things not related to board games. But I just finished some reading I had to do and now I find myself with a snippet of free time. So today I thought I would provide an update on my game design process.
But to do that I wanted to adjust my graphic a little. In the past I have used the one on the right to illustrate my steps in the game design process. I liked it for a while but I’ve felt called to make a new version. If you are interested in game design and you don’t really know how to go about things, please go read the Inspiration to Publication posts by Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim (designers of many games including the excellent Belfort by Tasty Minstrel Games).
So today I present my new “Game Design Process” graphic.
My Game Design Process
I’m not sure that’s an improvement but I had fun making the graphic anyway. It conveys the information in a more pictorial way rather than those boring rectangular prisms.
Let’s cover, briefly, what each of those game design steps really means to me anyway:
The concept phase is all about brainstorming and coming up with the overall ideas for your game. This could be Theme-First or Mechanic-First. Either way, this phase is where you are taking a lot of notes and figuring out all the things you want your game to be.
Once you’ve figured out the bulk of your game concept then it’s time to build it! In this phase you will create your physical prototype. If you don’t know how to get started, check out my article, “Starter Prototyping Tools.”
With your physical prototype ready to go it’s time to get it to the table and see if it works, see whether it is any fun, and find the ways to make it better! Just lure some friends with pizza or something. I wrote about playtesting once (here) but I am going to revise that article in the future because I’m not certain I agree with it completely anymore.
FIX IT! a.k.a. Applying Feedback
This is one of the more difficult things to do in board game design. It is tough sometimes to ignore feedback from your friends. It can be equally tough to accept tough feedback from them. But the most important thing is to understand WHAT the feedback actually means. For more info check out, “Coarse vs. Fine: Editing Your Game.”
PITCH! / PUBLISH
I wanted to put a caveat in the graphic somehow to stress that this part of the process shouldn’t happen whimsically when you feel like it. Before pitching to a publisher, or before self publishing, I highly recommend blind-playtesting. This is when you send a copy of the game to people you do not know. Let them read the rules and figure out the game. They will provide some of the best feedback you can imagine. After numerous cycles of fixing, prototyping, and playtesting where the feedback you receive is mostly or all positive, then I would feel confident in pitching the game or self-publishing. When you are ready to pitch the game you’ll want to contact the publisher that’s right for you and your game. Then you can follow the method in my article, “How to (Speed) Pitch Your Game.”
That’s an overview of my game design process. I know that there are people who do things differently. It would be weird if that weren’t the case. If there are things you think are essential to the process I’d love to hear about them. Just leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.
While at Gen Con my business partners from Moon Yeti Games and I had a chance to be part of the Publisher Speed Dating event run by James Mathe of Minion Games. I will refrain from making any comments about the games themselves. However, I am writing this article because I was a little shocked at how poorly people were pitching their games.
A while back I wrote an article called How To Teach Games. I’m using a similar model for this article.
You’ve got 5 minutes to pitch your game. It’s all set up, ready to go. A publisher walks up to your table. What do you do?
When teaching games I like to work top down and start very vague and get more and more detailed. A pitch doesn’t really work that way. You’ve got to figure out a way to skip over a bunch of the basics of your game and dive deep into the selling points. Here is a graphic I made that should help:
The sizes of the different portions of the pyramid represent the amount of time you should spend on that section. Let’s break it down:
This should be limited to your name and handshakes. Give a business card and sell sheet. Otherwise don’t waste time here.
Limit this to 10-20 seconds. Basically just give the background of the game concept. There’s no reason to go into a back story of why you are designing it or how it may serve humanity. Be succinct and move on.
This part is more important and is where you should spend about 1-1.5 minutes. Publishers will need to know how a game is played. They understand that if a turn in a game requires you to work through 15 different phases, then perhaps the game isn’t as streamlined as it could be. Give a good overview of the rules and how a basic turn works. You don’t need to share every rule of the game nor do you need to share the “exception” rules that are slightly different than the norm. Just share the normal, standard rules for the game. Work through the whole thing and then come back to the selling points…
Here is where you make or break the deal. This should be the bulk of the pitch. Publishers want to know what makes your game special. There are a lot of games out there. There are a lot of designers out there. There are TONS of unpublished games out there. So what makes yours special?
I refer to it as the “hook.” Tell the publishers what the hook is. The hook refers to the thing that’s different than any other game.
- Are you utilizing components in a new way?
- Are you using a new mechanic?
- Are you modifying an old mechanic in a new way?
- Is your theme so amazing?
Hopefully there is something that sets your game apart. This is where you share that. This is where you emphasize how your game is special. This is where you make your case. Figure out what makes your game great and make sure the publishers understand!
LEAVE A LASTING IMPRESSION:
Hopefully your game will leave a lasting impression. It is wise to allow 20-30 seconds at the end for questions from the publisher. Answer their questions cordially and then thank them for their time.
Congratulations! You just made the best sales pitch ever! Now what?
Publishers are different. Some may offer a contract on the spot (this is rare). If so, congratulations! Some may ask for a prototype. It’s a good idea to have an extra prototype on hand. Here’s where it gets a little sticky: what if two publishers ask for a prototype? (You should have a publisher priority list – meaning you’d rather work with pub A than pub B. Give the proto to pub A!) Sometimes publishers will love the game but will want to consider it before approaching the designer outside of the sales pitch. Often this is due to publishers needing time to discuss the prototype and the designer with their internal team.
Often the aftermath requires patience. Feel free to contact a publisher, but don’t be pushy. Publishers see a lot of games and often have a lot on their plates. Rest assured, though, knowing that you at least made a good sales pitch!
Have you had a successful sales pitch? Do you have a different method? I’d love to hear about them. Also, let me know if you have any comments about this method. Thanks for reading.