How to pitch
Who to pitch to
Some new developers try to contact every publisher they can get their hands on, whereas others are overly cautious about sending materials to anyone. A better approach is to get to know specific publishers who work on titles that are relevant to your game’s genre and scope: pay attention to how they sign games and the type of work which interests them.
When to pitch
Most publishers will want to see some form of prototype as well as get an idea of the game’s final art. Experienced developers may pitch using a “greybox” gameplay prototype (ie a playable section of the game which contains little or no finished art) alongside concept art or another form of visual accompaniment.
For newer developers though, it can be advisable to create a “vertical slice”: a fully-featured section of the game with full art content.
You’ll need to have a clear idea of your game’s core gameplay and then any secondary progression or metagame elements. If you are making a narrative game, then a brief punchy story synopsis can be useful.
It’s important to pitch only when you have full confidence that you’ll be able to deliver on your vision. Publishers will view unproven developers as a significant risk - you could consider offsetting this by releasing smaller projects or building up your experience by working with an experienced development team first.
Where to pitch
Many publishers and other funders will have public email addresses or contact forms which can be found on their website. There are also many in-person pitching events, such as Games Finance Market in the UK, which are accessible to newer developers.
If you are in a position to network with other developers, or attend industry events, this can be invaluable in forming relationships with publishers and understanding their acquisitions process. A pitch is always more impactful coming from a known source, so think about investing some time in forging real relationships within the games industry, as well as just working on your gamedev skills in isolation.
Thoughts on approaches to pitching
Pitching a game shouldn’t be a mysterious or opaque process. It is entirely about presenting your game concept in the best light, and in a form which is relevant to publishers.
You must remember that you are selling your game, not just listing its features or explaining why it’s important to you personally. Most funders are looking to make a return on their investment, so you’ll need to demonstrate your game’s potential, as well as the competence and professionalism of your team. Don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm for the project but make sure you can back up any of your assertions by pointing at data or qualitative audience responses to existing products.
There is no special trick to pitching: remaining calm, confident and clear is key. Focus your efforts on learning to create a great game, on sourcing or creating vibrant visuals and on making relevant contacts. If you have the right product, the pitching process should be straightforward.
If you are lucky enough to eventually receive a publishing offer for your game, be sure to take legal advice from a qualified lawyer with games industry experience.
Identifying additional value
It’s very important to think beyond funding when you are pitching a game: what unique advantages could a specific publisher offer you; could they help plug any gaps in your resources, or do they have expertise you need? Games are generally risky long-term prospects: you’ll need to find a partner that you’re happy to be involved with for the long haul.