Pitching Your Game to a Publisher: 5 Key Tips
Pitching to publishers is as crucial and intricate as any of the other aspects of game development and production. If you were looking to talk to someone about pitching your game and business, you would be hard pressed to find someone more experienced than our CEO, Harvey Elliott. Founder of PlayStack, Harvey has worked in the games industry for 21 years. In that time, he’s spent 9 years at EA, chaired the BAFTA Games Committee, raised numerous investments, scaled marketing campaigns and worked on the development of over 50 released games. We sat down with Harvey to find out his 5 key tips when pitching to a publisher.
PlayStack: Hi Harvey! What’re your key tips when pitching to a publisher?
Harvey: Hi guys. First things first - who are you? As a games developer, you need to be telling a story to publishers about who you are and what your team is about. Whatever you are doing, whatever game you are making, you are asking someone to believe in you. So, you have to believable and we have to be able to trust you and your team to create your game. You need to convey to the publishers that your team is epic, that you can deliver results and that you are the right team for the job.
WHAT'S YOUR GAME?
PlayStack: You’ve sold your team. What next?
Harvey: Next up is the game itself. Developers tend to be strong on this, but what is your game? What are you trying to make? A video would be useful, a demo would be ideal. Can you pitch your idea in just a few seconds? Be confident of the features and the content. Once you have us interested you need to be able to describe it in detail, and make it fun. If it’s not fun and engaging, publishers won’t buy into it – it’s a game after all... We see hundreds and hundreds of games, and it’s amazing how many titles try to riff on an existing game but fall short as just another clone. Those are easily forgotten, but think creatively and originally and your game may stick with us forever.
UNDERSTAND THE MARKET?
PlayStack: Team and game are ticked off. Now where?
Harvey: The internal workings of your game and your team should be second nature. After this, you need to have thought about market potential of the game. It’s vital you understand the size of the market and its potential, but also, who are your competitors? Find games like yours that are doing ok, good and great, and benchmark your sales against those. Almost all games will compete against other titles that will be selling to the same audience. How did they go to market? How do your players interact with their games? You need to demonstrate you’ve looked at the market, there is a market that exists and that you understand how it works.
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT FROM YOUR PUBLISHER?
PlayStack: Market research done. What’s your penultimate tip?
Harvey: Well, it’s all well and good saying “I want a publisher”, but you need to know what you want from a publisher? What expectations do you have for that publisher? Are you familiar with what they are offering? What sort of games do they currently have and do they fit well with your game? Being able to show that you can gain something extra from a publisher and form a relationship that is worth more than the sum of its parts will excite everyone.
Budget is usually a big part of seeking a publisher, so it is critical to understand a commercial model that works for you as a developer and how this ties in with a publisher’s model. It can be frustrating when we’ve got a great team, great game, they know who the game is for and how to bring it to market, but they have no idea what the commercials need to look like. How do you guys make money, how does the publisher make money? Publishers will help with this, but you’ve got to go in with a starting point for these discussions.
PlayStack: That’s really insightful. What’s your final tip?
Harvey: Be open and have an honest approach. Whoever you pitch to will give you ideas and have responses such as “we could do this and that etc.”. You must be open to what you will hear, and be dynamic in your responses. Being open about your whole approach will make things much easier. Be honest about what you know, and what you don’t. It’s better to hear I don’t know than something made up on the spot. As you pitch and hear more from the publisher it could test everything about the game and proposition. No one will give you the perfect model, so make sure you embrace the challenges and be flexible. Nothing I’ve ever seen follows the perfect plan, so if you can’t respond to challenges, that’s the biggest indicator for us of something that won’t succeed.
PlayStack: Thanks Harvey!