Best Practices for Pitching a Game: And Why We Didn't Use Them
If you're wondering about the lack of updates here on the blog, the reason is simple: for the past five months, we've been prepping to pitch.
Pitching can be a roller-coaster ride, but aligning the goals of the pitch with the completion of key facets of our first game helped keep motivation high, even as the pressure mounted.
The end result included a 25-minute playable spanning the bulk of the game's opening levels, a professionally-produced trailer, and a 35-page presentation.
During the same process, the project was activated on Steamworks, the website was updated, and we conducted thorough play-testing, asset reviews, and engaged in countless discussions about pitch strategy.
While there's no singular way to "pitch" a game, there seem to be well-established best practices. I'll admit we didn't abide by many of them.
THE PLAYABLE SHOULD BE VERY SHORT AND EXTREMELY WELL-POLISHED: Our goal was to demonstrate the bond between our two primary characters, and allow the player time to explore multiple areas of their mind, culminating in a major example of unique story-telling directly intertwined with gameplay.
The actual duration was about 5 times longer than what was recommended, and we were warned that publishers probably wouldn't play past the 5-minute mark. Yet, with early playables and video playthroughs, most participants revealed they were extremely compelled to continue playing or watching just to see what would happen next.
THE DECK SHOULD BE A MAXIMUM OF 10 PAGES: I admit I am often pegged as a "verbose" person, and am fully aware that I have a tendency to ramble on, especially when my words are filled with passion. But I'm also a veteran presenter with a penchant for strong visuals and a welcoming high-energy style.
The deck stands at 35 pages, and can be presented in about 25 minutes. That's not ideal if someone's only giving you 10 minutes to explain yourself. And even with a 30-minute meeting structure, it gives little room for discussion. But for an hour discussion among key stakeholders, it's a thorough overview of the "what, why, how, and when" that hopefully generates consideration over confusion.
Creating a short version of the deck is now in motion, so we're prepared for any opportunity, and fully capable of generating concentrated "wow" in the shortest time possible.
PITCH TO EVERYONE YOU CAN: There's some good wisdom in this advice, but time is finite for indie developers, and we still have a game that needs to be made--whether we take on a partner or not.
So, while we've opened up our list of publishers we'd consider working with, we won't just be chasing any company with a wallet or pursuing placement in a portfolio where we're a total genre mismatch.
It's important that we engage in conversations with those who are most likely to take interest. By contrast, we are fortunate to have a vast network of contacts within the industry, and we've freely shared the trailer with them as you never know who they might recommend as a good fit.
New companies form every day, and publishers often chase uncharted paths, so we remain open to new suggestions and new opportunities delivered to us by trusted friends.
It's important I take this opportunity to thank everyone who provided advice and feedback at every phase up until now. In spite of our deviation from general wisdom, we acted on so many of the comments given to us, and our materials are far better for it.
This phase is likely to last for 3-6 months, and there's no certainty as to the outcome. If we don't find the right home for this project, we could very well return to a self-publishing strategy. Yet we would not consider any of the time and energy invested into the pitch as simply "wasted."
On the contrary, the entire process has yielded a far better understanding of what we are building, how it fits into the ever-changing market, and how we can not only complete the project, but also build the best game possible.
It has been essential work, and milestones such as these give projects and studios the sense of identity and confidence needed to power on and overcome the innumerable challenges that lie ahead.
Wish us luck!