How to pitch your game. Part 1: Description & Basics.
Given the importance of this topic, a single post would not suffice to cover it well enough. Therefore, it has been split into four parts to ensure comprehensive coverage:
- Part 1: Description & Basics
- Part 2: Game Content & Storytelling
- Part 3: Budget & Timeline
- Part 4: Shapes & Pitch Deck
Every game developer seeking funds or light for their games inevitably encounters this crucial step—a make-or-break moment that holds the power to shape the entire game production. Crafting a compelling pitch is not just a formality; it is a mandatory stride, and the stakes are high. In this blog post, we will demystify the basics of pitching a game. Let’s delve into what a pitch entails and unravel the strategies to ensure your pitch captivates the audience, securing the support your game deserves.
What is a video game pitch
In its simplest form, a video game pitch serves as a quick overview of a video game. It is crafted to convince audiences that the game aligns with their needs and tastes, whatever they may be. It is a powerful tool enabling people outside the development team to swiftly understand what the game is and what developers have planned for it. While the pitch’s content may vary based on its intended audience, the ultimate goal remains consistent: to convince that the game is great, unique, and that the development team have the means to achieve their vision.
Game developers find themselves pitching their games at different stages of development and to various audiences. These audiences typically include publishers’ developers seeking partnership agreements on distribution, marketing, and production of the game; investors eager to understand the game and the company they are investing in; and journalists or gamers who need to be assured that the game in production may be their GOTY (Game of the Year). Games are often pitched during initial stages, sometimes even before a prototype exists, or later in development to meet various needs such as engaging external teams, supporting marketing efforts, attracting investors, or generating interest from journalists.
If the audience can vary, it goes as well for the forms a game pitch can take. It can range from a concise one-liner at the bottom of an email to a fully articulated 20-page pitch deck replete with charts, videos, and beautiful concept art.
No matter how diverse these audiences and forms can be, it is essential to understand that the way to architecture a pitch stays the same: it is not a one-way speech but rather a discussion. Viewing a pitch, regardless of its format or target, as a two-way conversation contributes to crafting a more natural and less business-oriented presentation. This approach is particularly effective in reaching the audience—far more than a mere compilation of random, semi-informative numbers, and empty charts to try to appear professional.
Know your audience
In the art of pitching, one of the keys to persuasion lies in understanding what the audience wants. Game developers, whether addressing a publisher, an investor, or a journalist, must make it sure that their pitch aligns with the interests of those receiving it. The same pitch will not satisfy all the needs.
Tailoring content is crucial. The expectations of a potential publisher differ from those of a dedicated gamer familiar with a developer’s previous work, or those from a group of investors. Before sending pitches or meeting requests at game events, thorough research can aid in curating the audience effectively. For instance, a game studio trying to find a publishing deal for their fast-paced, gore-filled first-person shooter would be wise to avoid pitching to publishers renowned for dating sims. It will save both some valuable time. This is why game developers must look out for what their intended audience does and likes.
Understanding a publisher’s established genre lineup is vital. Gamers who appreciate narrative games, for example, are likely to stay loyal to a publisher known for consistently delivering in that genre. By doing so, the publisher secures revenue across its games, offering a common banner for fans of a specific genre. Consequently, the said publisher will be more likely to continue funding games within the same genre.
When pitched to, publishers typically seek details on the game’s genre, team size, unique core mechanics, ambiance, and its fit within their predetermined game lineup. Investors are interested in shares, budget, release date, and the game’s overall potential. Journalists, on the other hand, look for alignment between the game’s core content and their personal interests, ensuring their time is well-invested.
Adapting the pitch’s tone, narrative, and content to suit the audience is the initial step in ensuring it captures attention rather than being immediately dismissed. How to create a narrative for a pitch is such a wide topic to cover that it will be the main subject of the next post.
Do not compare your game
One common mistake many game developers make is starting their pitch with the infamous “it’s game A meeting game B” approach. It may seem like an innocent move to help the audience quickly grasp the game’s concept, but it is an illusion. When games are compared, mental projection naturally occurs as the audience tries to understand the concept, spending more time recalling feelings associated with the referenced games than paying attention to the pitch.
Comparing games also relies on the assumption that the audience shares positive feelings towards the referenced games. However, no one can predict how enjoyable a game was for someone else. If the referenced game was disliked, the pitched game is immediately devalued due to its association with an unenjoyable experience. On the other hand, if the referenced game was liked, some time will be spent recalling how this specific game was, making it exceedingly difficult for the pitched game to live up to this expectation.
During a pitch, the audience often knows the market well enough to bridge connections themselves. By avoiding direct comparisons, the pitch eliminates the risk of triggering negative memories or feelings toward prior game experiences. If well-executed, the audience can recognize the game’s affinity to ones they loved without the need for explicit comparisons. This approach is generally positive, as it is unlikely for the audience to recall or compare the pitched game to a disliked one.
Be concise, be efficient
Developers obviously possess an intimate understanding of their game, having crafted the vision that founds it. However, this close connection can sometimes lead them to overlook the true value of their creation. They may be tempted to share every tiny detail, believing that the combination of all the insignificant elements contributes to pitching a stellar game concept. This is often a misjudgment.
When pitching, it is essential to recognize the intelligence of the audience, whether they are publishers or gamers. Having encountered a myriad of games throughout their gaming careers, they all have mastered the ability to extrapolate from fragments of ideas to mentally construct a concrete vision of a game (how far the vision lands from reality depends on the pitch quality). Therefore, being concise and efficient when pitching is essential to avoid creating useless noise sources. Selecting and highlighting the most relevant aspects while reserving less obvious or pertinent details for later is also key to raising questions. Remember, a pitch is a discussion.
The goal of a pitch, even before convincing, is to incite questions. Questions indicate interest and a desire to learn more. The pitch is the appetizer, the questions and their answers are the main course. Delving into every insignificant detail of the concept would leave too little room for the audience to want to know more (and will sentence them to death by boredom).
One easy strategy is to define the core pillars of the game concept, bringing these central elements to the forefront of the pitch. Briefly mentioning other aspects will entail curiosity, and then questions, allowing for a more dynamic and interactive exchange. Organizing the pitch and thinking it in terms of “highlights” and “secondary content” offers developers more control on the discussion. Anticipating curiosity and questions could then become feasible while enhancing the overall effectiveness of the pitch.
In this first part, we explained the essence of a game pitch and laid the foundations for solid pitches. The next part will delve into the actual game content to be presented and discuss how to structure the narrative of the pitch for maximum impact. Stay tuned for How to Pitch Your Game. Part 2: Game Content & Storytelling.