The art of the pitch is one of the most essential skills for folks who put the "business" in games business. One of the industry's startup experts, Jason Della Rocca, will be teaching a class on the art of the pitch as part of GDC's Masterclass program this December.
Della Rocca's a giving kind of guy, and wants developers everywhere to arm themselves as best they can when going into the pitch room. That's why he worked with us this week to prepare a short lesson for you on how you can improve your pitching prowess.
For your benefit here is a brief Q&A with Della Rocca about improving your pitch, asked from the perspective of a developer who may be in the same position you find yourself in: being confident in the game you're making, but trying to make sure you can sell it to prospective business partners.
Hey Jason! I’m the studio head at a small developer prepping our pitch for publishers for our next game. We had some success with a small indie title, and now we’re excited to be partnering with a veteran animator to create a unique look for our next game.
We think we’ve done a good job arranging our pitch materials and figuring out the sellable aspects of our game (your GDC talks have been super helpful), but we’re still trying to anticipate what other goals our prospective publishers would be looking out for.
What do you think we can do to better understand the folks we’re going out to pitches with in the next few months?
Fundamentally, publishers are trying to assess three major things from your pitch:
1) Is this game "awesome" and what is its commercial potential?
2) Is this the right team to create this game roughly on time and on budget?
3) Does this game align with our "style" as a publisher and our ability to be a good partner (ie, will our existing fans enjoy it, does it match our budget range, etc)?
When most developers build their pitch, they seem to only ever focus on the "is my game awesome" part. While you most definitely need to accomplish that, you need to cover the marketability and the competitive landscape in the pitch. For the pragmatics around execution, your pitch deck needs to include timeline, high level budget info, and info around the team. This gives confidence to publishers that you know what you are doing and can deliver.
For the last part around style and partnership suitability, that's where research will pay off. Don't pitch a kid's game to Devolver. Only pitch strategy games to Paradox. Don't bother mobile publishers with your Steam game pitch. And so on. You should start a spreadsheet to track all your publisher targets. Look at the portfolio of games on their website and imagine if your game belongs on the list (or not). Dig around on Steam and look up games with a similar theme/genre as you, and see who is publishing those games.. then check the "more games like this" section and look up those games.
The more targeted you are with your pitch, the more it will resonate.
Thanks Jason, that helps us out a lot. I wanted to ask, when we’re looking at some publisher’s portfolio’s (like Annapurna, for instance), we see some games that don’t quite fit the mold of the rest of their titles.
At what point do you think it’s worth it for a developer to “break the rules” in pitching, and take a chance on what may seem like an unconventional relationship?
Ok, ok, sure, there are always exceptions. Does Fall Guys look like a typical Devolver game? Still not sure I'd bother pitching anything other than a strategy game to Paradox, or a racing game to Codemasters. Of course, not all publishers have such a narrow curation on their portfolio.
But, part of targeting a specific publisher with a distinct style/genre/category is to leverage audience alignment. And, a big part of the justification for working with a publisher is that they can bring eyeballs to your game. This is much more of an obvious win if Paradox is bringing your cool new strategy game to their fans, who are ravenous for strategy games.
So, fine, maybe you convince a publisher to take a gamble on your game even though it is way outside their wheelhouse. I'd view the risk you take in working with a publisher that doesn't have the "right" fans for your game as the much bigger gamble!
In the end, it doesn't hurt to add everyone to your tracking sheet and prioritize them based on "perceived fit potential".
Thanks Jason! Looking forward to your class!
If these are the kinds of questions you're looking for answers to, register now for Della Rocca's GDC Masterclass before seats are all gone!