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 There are TONS of unpublished games out there.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.