The Definitive Guide To Pitching Your Video Game

Over the years I’ve both pitched many games and been on the receiving end of pitches too, all of which range from a small game worth £100k up to AAA hits of close on £10M. I’ve worked my way through the good & bad and I wanted to share with you my complete guide to pitching a game.

In essence, Pitching is about building a bridge between the Art and the Money, let’s learn how to make that bridge.

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In order to make this connection we need 3 key elements to be successful. These are:

-------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ A **Great Idea** A **Good Business Case** and a **Great Team** to execute it ![image](/assets/image47.png "image") [![image](/assets/image_thumb7.png "image")](http://game-linchpin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/image48.png) [![28561_401001936774_749226774_4419975_4373594_n](/assets/28561_401001936774_749226774_4419975_4373594_n_thumb.jpg "28561_401001936774_749226774_4419975_4373594_n")](http://game-linchpin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/28561_401001936774_749226774_4419975_4373594_n.jpg) -------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Warning

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What’s presented in this post are general rules that work in most cases but these aren’t definitive rules, you’ll need to adapt them to suit your own needs but the principles are sound and are well-tested.

I also focus on the more traditional slide based presentation that can be done in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, a series of slides or even a flip book. These forms work for most projects but the more creative and unique projects sometimes need something more tangible like a video or prototype to get a complex idea across.

Great Idea

Lets drill down into the most important part, the Great Idea that your presenting. There are 3 main properties your great idea should have…

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------ ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ [![Glastonbury-Festival-2008-001](/assets/Glastonbury-Festival-2008-001_thumb.jpg "Glastonbury-Festival-2008-001")](http://game-linchpin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Glastonbury-Festival-2008-001.jpg) ![image](/assets/image5.png "image") [![six-sense](/assets/six-sense_thumb.jpg "six-sense")](http://game-linchpin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/six-sense.jpg) It needs to be **relevant to a big enough audience** It needs to **stand out from the crowd** And be **Innovative**, in that it offers something new in actual game experience that sets it apart from other games in the genre. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------ ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So how should we structure the pitch?

image A good structure for a pitch is to cover some basic areas to make sure that all the key information is shared

  • High Concept
  • Key Features
  • Storyboards
  • Business Case
  • Pitch Summary
  • Defensive Slides

How Long Should It Be?

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It’s been scientifically proven that 10 minutes is the greatest amount of time a person can concentrate before their mind starts to wander.

It may not sound very long but you may well find you struggle to communicate everything you want in that time and you’ll be constantly trimming your presentation, finely tuning each word and image to make sure you get the most bang-for-buck.

I would say that you should be able to get across your High Concept in less than 1 minute, leaving you 9 minutes to get across your features, scenarios, business case and summary before questions.

High Concept {style=”clear: both;”}

The first element to share is your High Concept, what is the game really all about?

It should be a compelling and unique idea that can be communicated in just a couple of sentences. This is commonly known as the “Elevator Pitch” with the idea being that you could jump in a lift on the ground floor with the person you’re presenting to and make your pitch memorable before they leave on the 2nd floor.

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This means that it’s important that your high concept is easy to communicate, memorable & easy to pass on.

Once that person gets out of the elevator they’re going to tell someone “Wow! I just heard a great idea in the life, let me tell you about it…”

Remember this is a hook, it’s a seed, it’s the first contact with your idea but it should be finely tuned and water-tight.

Preparing this short High Concept is a tough exercise but it really focuses your attention and gets to the core of your game idea.

There’s an even shorter form of High Concept that’s often called the “X Statement”, this encapsulates the essence of your idea in just a few words. They’re not intended to tell someone everything about your idea but just enough to get their appetite going.

Here are a few examples, you could probably guess the game from just the statement, which is the idea.

![image](/assets/image10.png "image") "Improve the Age of your Brain in just 10 minutes a day"
![image](/assets/image11.png "image") "Create virtual people and run their lives"

Set The Scene {style=”clear: both;”}

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So, you’ve nailed the High Concept and now it’s time to give some more detail so everyone understands exactly what our offering is. The High Concept followed by this extra level of detail will frame the rest of the presentation.

You’re aiming to go top-down, start high and drill in to more detail as you go deeper into your presentation. This way the concept starts to become clearer and clearer as you progress.

Adding in layers like this also ensures that everyone is expecting the same thing, it would be awful if you got 1/2 way through your pitch and someone said “Ohh, I thought you were pitching a Racing Game but it’s actually a Farming Game”

Cover the basics: Who is the player in the game? What are they doing in the game? Why are they doing what they’re doing? Where is the game set? How do they do it? Who’s the audience? What platform is it on?

Remember, keep it high level, add in the layers later in your presentation.

Key Features

It’s generally held that you only need 4 elements to a product before a buyer will make their decision. No more, no less.

We have the High Concept so we only need 3 Key Features to get to a decision point. This means it’s incredibly important that these few things add up to something amazing and it’s a lot of pressure to make sure they’re complete and enticing but it’s a tried & tested formula.

The Key Features need to deliver on the promise set by the High Concept, they need to expose unique and exciting elements of your game experience. Remember:

We only want 3 Key Features

It’s probably true that your game has loads of features but you have to pick the 3 strongest features on which to hang your pitch.

Make It Visual

By far the best way to communicate your High Concept and 3 Key Features is to use visuals in whatever format you choose.

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Let’s use one of my favourite games, Burnout Paradise (the only PS3 Platinum I have), as an example of how this may work by using some stock footage from around the ‘net. You’d obviously need to use relevant and specific imagery for your own pitch. These could easily be anything from pencil sketches, concept drawings, renders or screen captures from a prototype.

High Concept

image The original Burnout game’s X Statement is:

“High-Speed, High-Octane, High-Impact Action”

The use of the word “Impact” has 2 meanings here, firstly it means crashing, secondly it refers to the effect it has on you.

Risk = Reward {style=”clear: both;”}

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What takes Burnout beyond a regular car driving game is the element of “Risk = Reward”. The more dangerous you drive, the more risks you take the greater the reward. This goes around in a loop as the Reward is boost, which enables you to go faster and take more Risks, which generates more Boost.

Paradise City {style=”clear: both;”}

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“Explore over 250 miles of open road, discovering jumps, stunts and shortcuts.”

This was one of the first games to take place in an expansive open world called Paradise City. Races and events took place on streets you cruised around, they crossed over each other and the end of one race became the start of another - or you could just cruise away.

Choose Your Route {style=”clear: both;”}

burnout-paradise-20080701043017547_640w

The open world naturally facilitated choosing your own route through the world, you could take short-cuts, scenic routes and weave your way under freeways to beat your opponents to the finish line.

These are obviously simple examples taken from stock footage but you can see how they all fit in with Burnout Paradise’s High Concept and they support each other to make a compelling case. Remember, you don’t need all of your features exposed; just the Key 3 Features to sell your idea. You can leave your various online modes, customisation, range of vehicles, DLC plans for later.

Movies {style=”clear: both;”}

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If you have the time then a Movie can be a great way to get across your point. You may splice bits from other games, TV, Hollywood, DVDs in a form referred to as a “rip-o-matic” to get the energy, emotion and essence of your game idea across but it’s very easy to be mis-understood and set the wrong expectations using this method. You don’t want to be promising life-like visuals or amazing narrative if they’re not in your plans so be careful.

Stick to communicating your Key Features and the basics of:

  • High Concept
  • Core experience
  • Character / Objective
  • Theme & tone

Storyboards {style=”clear: both;”}

A great way to get across an idea is to take your audience through the experience in the form of a storyboard, walk-through or scenarios.

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The aim of your storyboard is the same, its sole aim is to get across your High Concept and 3 Key Features. Hollywood and TV have used this model for years and it’s also a great tool to use once your game is in production too to make sure everyone is going in the same direction.

Think of them as a comic that show your features in action as the player may experience them. This gives them context, meaning and detail that further cement your idea.

Don’t go crazy, stick to 1 or 2 Storyboards and it’ll be enough to make your point and you definitely don’t want to bore anyone by saying the same thing over and over.

Some ideas benefit from more of a narrative context to get the emotion across and telling a Story is the best way to do this. The emotion makes the feature more memorable too.

Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories

  • Roger C Schank, Cognitive Scientist

An example Storyboard {style=”clear: both;”}

Let’s use another of my favourite games as an example of how we can use a Storyboard to get across our Key Features in a way that is compelling and memorable.

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Here’s a Storyboard that we could use to describe the action of a Survival Horror featuring Close-Quarter Intense Fights, Interactive World and Highly Intelligent Opponents in one go. Read through and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a lot more exciting and compelling than a bullet-point list.

  1. Player is trapped from all sides in a building and must make a stand
  2. The fight begins as the zombies pile in through the broken windows
  3. Running upstairs isn’t enough, the zombies pursue from the outside and break in on the 1st floor
  4. Player’s only hope is to push the ladder away along with all the zombies climbing up
  5. The fight is too much so Player escapes through a 1st floor broken window
  6. Sadly, Player lands right in front of a tooled-up zombie who finishes Player off

Business Case

Now you’ve got the game idea across its time to focus on the money; costs & profit are key areas to cover by discussing the business case for the project. As a Developer you’re aiming to prove that you can make the game you’ve promised for a sensible amount of money and what the up-side is for both parties.

“This is show business, not show friends” - Jerry Maguire
![image](/assets/image23.png "image")

As we’ve seen on Dragon’s Den many times there are 2 main aspects to a deal: the Emotional side where the buyer is figuring out if they like the Idea (including the Team making it) and the Practical business needs. There are many times on DD where the idea is great but the Dragon’s just don’t like the person pitching the idea.

They’ll be asking the following questions:

  • Is there an audience for it?
  • Can this team make it? What’s the teams heritage? Have they done this kind of game before?
  • How much do I think it’s worth? Is the proposal about right for this scope of game?
  • Does it meet my business needs?
  • Does it fit with portfolio & strategy? Show them that fits within their portfolio of games and expands it in new areas
  • How much Risk is involved?
  • Can *we* make money?

As a presenter, your role is to make sure that you answer these questions accurately and with confidence and make them want to give you the money!

Portfolio fit – show who this fits in with other games the company makes by doing your research beforehand.

Team heritage – Give a brief overview of the highlights of the teams pedigree and expose key people to bring kudos

Headline costs & timeline – keep the figures high level but don’t forget to include a time-line too, how much and when does the money go out. Share your expected time-line for delivery of the game to enable the buyer to think about the earliest point they could sell the game.

Next Steps – remind them of the next phase of concepting or pre-production and what it will bring. After all, the money you need up to that point is all that you’re really looking for a commitment for at this stage.

Pitch Summary

Tell them what you’ve just told them!

The sticky bit of business is now down and it’s time to re-emphasise what a great idea it is and remind them that it’s something they really want to be a part of by re-stating your High Concept and 3 Key Features.

Defensive Slides {style=”clear: both;”}

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Now here’s a top-secret tip: Defensive Slides.

These slides hide at the back of your presentation, beyond the “Any Questions?” slide  and their sole purpose is to be there to support your answers to any detailed questions that may come up.

Think about what these questions could be during your preparation, maybe they’re slides you culled while you tried to get it down to 10 minutes.

Think about the worst questions you could get, the ones you dread and get the answer ready and pop in any additional slide you have that support your answer. It’s comforting to know that they’re there and awesome to flick to if the question comes up.

They show you’re ready and you’re thinking about your proposition from all angles.

I’d usually include a more detailed financial break-down in here as well as relevant slides such as detailed milestone schedules, DLC plans, feature lists, competitive analysis, detailed team bios, references, alternative date scenarios (bigger team/longer time), etc.

Summary

Lets cover the main points again:

Make sure your Great Idea is unique and has a big enough audience

Present the idea visually, cut the word count on the slides themselves to make it more memorable

Focus on the key points, get the hook in to entice the buyer for more information. Don’t overwhelm them.

Provide a complete solution: Great Idea, Great Team, Great Business Case

I hope you enjoyed this post and find it useful, I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

Further Reading

The original Bioshock Pitch, kindly shared by Irrational Games.

An article written in 2007 on pitching games



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