pitch

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The Definitive Guide To Pitching Your Video Game

12 min read

Over the years I’ve both pitched many games and been on the receivingend of pitches too, all of which range from a small game worth £100k upto AAA hits of close on £10M. I’ve worked my way through the good & badand I wanted to share with you my complete guide to pitching a game.In essence, Pitching is about building a bridge between the Artand the Money, let’s learn how to make that bridge.In order to make this connection we need 3 key elements to besuccessful. Theseare: -------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 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 WarningWhat’s presented in this post are general rules that work in most casesbut these aren’t definitive rules, you’ll need to adapt them to suityour own needs but the principles are sound and are well-tested.I also focus on the more traditional slide based presentation that canbe done in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, a series of slides oreven a flip book. These forms work for most projects but the morecreative and unique projects sometimes need something more tangible likea video or prototype to get a complex idea across.Great IdeaLets drill down into the most important part, the Great Idea that yourpresenting. 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? A good structure for a pitch is tocover some basic areas to make sure that all the key information isshared High Concept Key Features Storyboards Business Case Pitch Summary Defensive SlidesHow Long Should It Be?It’s been scientifically proven that 10 minutes is the greatest amountof time a person can concentrate before their mind starts to wander.It may not sound very long but you may well find you struggle tocommunicate everything you want in that time and you’ll be constantlytrimming your presentation, finely tuning each word and image to makesure you get the most bang-for-buck.I would say that you should be able to get across your High Concept inless 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 gamereally all about?It should be a compelling and unique idea that can be communicated injust a couple of sentences. This is commonly known as the “ElevatorPitch” with the idea being that you could jump in a lift on the groundfloor with the person you’re presenting to and make your pitch memorablebefore they leave on the 2nd floor.This means that it’s important that your high concept is easy tocommunicate, 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 aboutit…”Remember this is a hook, it’s a seed, it’s the first contact with youridea but it should be finely tuned and water-tight.Preparing this short High Concept is a tough exercise but it reallyfocuses 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 afew words. They’re not intended to tell someone everything about youridea but just enough to get their appetite going.Here are a few examples, you could probably guess the game from just thestatement, 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;”}So, you’ve nailed the High Concept and now it’s time to give somemore detail so everyone understands exactly what our offering is. TheHigh Concept followed by this extra level of detail will frame the restof the presentation.You’re aiming to go top-down, start high and drill in to more detail asyou go deeper into your presentation. This way the concept starts tobecome clearer and clearer as you progress.Adding in layers like this also ensures that everyone is expecting thesame thing, it would be awful if you got 1/2 way through your pitch andsomeone said “Ohh, I thought you were pitching a Racing Game but it’sactually a Farming Game”Cover thebasics: 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 yourpresentation.Key FeaturesIt’s generally held that you only need 4 elements to a product before abuyer will make their decision. No more, no less.We have the High Concept so we only need 3 Key Features to getto a decision point. This means it’s incredibly important that these fewthings add up to something amazing and it’s a lot of pressure to makesure they’re complete and enticing but it’s a tried & tested formula.The Key Features need to deliver on the promise set by the HighConcept, they need to expose unique and exciting elements of your gameexperience.Remember:We only want 3 Key FeaturesIt’s probably true that your game has loads of features but you have topick the 3 strongest features on which to hang your pitch.Make It VisualBy far the best way to communicate your High Concept and 3 KeyFeatures is to use visuals in whatever format you choose.Let’s use one of my favourite games, Burnout Paradise (the only PS3Platinum I have), as an example of how this may work by using some stockfootage from around the ‘net. You’d obviously need to use relevant andspecific imagery for your own pitch. These could easily be anything frompencil sketches, concept drawings, renders or screen captures from aprototype.High Concept The original Burnout game’s X Statementis: “High-Speed, High-Octane, High-Impact Action”The use of the word “Impact” has 2 meanings here, firstly it meanscrashing, secondly it refers to the effect it has on you.Risk = Reward {style=”clear: both;”}What takes Burnout beyond a regular car driving game is the element of“Risk = Reward”. The more dangerous you drive, the more risks you takethe greater the reward. This goes around in a loop as the Reward isboost, which enables you to go faster and take more Risks, whichgenerates more Boost.Paradise City {style=”clear: both;”}“Explore over 250 miles of open road, discovering jumps, stunts andshortcuts.”This was one of the first games to take place in an expansive open worldcalled Paradise City. Races and events took place on streets you cruisedaround, they crossed over each other and the end of one race became thestart of another - or you could just cruise away.Choose Your Route {style=”clear: both;”}The open world naturally facilitated choosing your own route through theworld, you could take short-cuts, scenic routes and weave your way underfreeways to beat your opponents to the finish line.These are obviously simple examples taken from stock footage but you cansee how they all fit in with Burnout Paradise’s High Concept and theysupport each other to make a compelling case. Remember, you don’t needall of your features exposed; just the Key 3 Features to sell youridea. You can leave your various online modes, customisation, range ofvehicles, DLC plans for later.Movies {style=”clear: both;”}If you have the time then a Movie can be a great way to get across yourpoint. You may splice bits from other games, TV, Hollywood, DVDs in aform referred to as a “rip-o-matic” to get the energy, emotion andessence of your game idea across but it’s very easy to bemis-understood and set the wrong expectations using this method. Youdon’t want to be promising life-like visuals or amazing narrative ifthey’re not in your plans so be careful.Stick to communicating your Key Features and the basicsof: High Concept Core experience Character / Objective Theme & toneStoryboards {style=”clear: both;”}A great way to get across an idea is to take your audience through theexperience in the form of a storyboard, walk-through or scenarios.The aim of your storyboard is the same, its sole aim is to get acrossyour High Concept and 3 Key Features. Hollywood and TV have usedthis model for years and it’s also a great tool to use once your game isin 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 playermay experience them. This gives them context, meaning and detail thatfurther cement your idea.Don’t go crazy, stick to 1 or 2 Storyboards and it’ll be enough to makeyour point and you definitely don’t want to bore anyone by saying thesame thing over and over.Some ideas benefit from more of a narrative context to get the emotionacross and telling a Story is the best way to do this. The emotionmakes the feature more memorable too. Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideallyset 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 usea Storyboard to get across our Key Features in a way that is compellingand memorable.Here’s a Storyboard that we could use to describe the action of aSurvival Horror featuring Close-Quarter Intense Fights, InteractiveWorld and Highly Intelligent Opponents in one go. Read through and I’msure you’ll agree it’s a lot more exciting and compelling than abullet-point list. Player is trapped from all sides in a building and must make a stand The fight begins as the zombies pile in through the broken windows Running upstairs isn’t enough, the zombies pursue from the outsideand break in on the 1st floor Player’s only hope is to push the ladder away along with all thezombies climbing up The fight is too much so Player escapes through a 1st floor brokenwindow Sadly, Player lands right in front of a tooled-up zombie whofinishes Player offBusiness CaseNow 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 casefor the project. As a Developer you’re aiming to prove that you can makethe game you’ve promised for a sensible amount of money and what theup-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 adeal: 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 followingquestions: Is there an audience for it? Can this team make it? What’s the teams heritage? Have they donethis kind of game before? How much do I think it’s worth? Is the proposal about right for thisscope of game? Does it meet my business needs? Does it fit with portfolio & strategy? Show them that fits withintheir 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 thesequestions accurately and with confidence and make them want to giveyou the money!Portfolio fit – show who this fits in with other games the companymakes by doing your research beforehand.Team heritage – Give a brief overview of the highlights of the teamspedigree and expose key people to bring kudosHeadline costs & timeline – keep the figures high level but don’tforget to include a time-line too, how much and when does the money goout. Share your expected time-line for delivery of the game to enablethe buyer to think about the earliest point they could sell the game.Next Steps – remind them of the next phase of concepting orpre-production and what it will bring. After all, the money you need upto that point is all that you’re really looking for a commitment for atthis stage.Pitch SummaryTell them what you’ve just told them!The sticky bit of business is now down and it’s time to re-emphasisewhat a great idea it is and remind them that it’s something they reallywant to be a part of by re-stating your High Concept and 3 KeyFeatures.Defensive Slides {style=”clear: both;”}Now here’s a top-secrettip: Defensive Slides.These slides hide at the back of your presentation, beyond the “AnyQuestions?” slide  and their sole purpose is to be there to support youranswers to any detailed questions that may come up.Think about what these questions could be during your preparation, maybethey’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 andget the answer ready and pop in any additional slide you have thatsupport your answer. It’s comforting to know that they’re there andawesome to flick to if the question comes up.They show you’re ready and you’re thinking about your proposition fromall angles.I’d usually include a more detailed financial break-down in here as wellas 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.SummaryLets cover the main pointsagain:Make sure your Great Idea is unique and has a big enough audiencePresent the idea visually, cut the word count on the slides themselvesto make it more memorableFocus on the key points, get the hook in to entice the buyer for moreinformation. Don’t overwhelm them.Provide a completesolution: Great Idea, Great Team, Great Business CaseI hope you enjoyed this post and find it useful, I’d love to hear youropinion in the comments section below.Further ReadingThe original BioshockPitch, kindly shared by Irrational Games.An article written in2007 on pitching games

How To Improve Your Video Game Pitch

4 min read

I’ve seen my game pitches in my time, and I’ve made quite a few myselfbut I’m continually amazed and just what some people think they’redoing.  Think about all those poor saps who’ve been sent to theslaughter on “X Factor” for our amusement when they totally and utterlyfail to deliver anything that a mother wouldn’t love.  Think about allthose sorry ideas you’ve seen on Dragon’s Den that are just pitiful. Butit doesn’t have to be this way…When I’ve been on the receiving end, it often feels like “X Factor”, theperson pitching stands up, stumbles to introduce themselves and thenproceeds to claim they’ve got the best thing you’ve ever seen, all theirfriends and colleagues have seen it and they’re passionate about it.It’s the next GTA, or God Of War, or Forza…and then….sitting on theedge of my seat I wait…out comes the pitch and the presentation to gowith it. I finally get to see something and oh dear, oh dear, it rarelylives up to the hype and expectations that the person pitching sets.The sad part is, some of the games are actually fundamentally good andit’s just that pitch itself and / or the person pitching is bad. Both ofthese are fixable or at least made a little bit easier.Here’s a few pointers to get you started X Statement. Produce a concise statement that sums up yourgame succinctly. It should capture the essence of what you’re gameis about and set realistic expectations. It’s difficult to do, andeven harder to do well, but the thought behind it will cause you toexplore what you’re really pitching. Who Am I? What Am I doing? Why do I care? These are things Iwant to know as a gamer, to check if this is something I want toplay. Ask yourself these questions to ensure that you’ve coveredthese key topics in your pitch. Would your mother understand it? When you’ve written your pitch,ask yourself if your mother would understand what you’re saying orshowing. This may seem silly but remember that the people you’repitching to have to understand your proposition in 15-20 minutes.They haven’t lived with every nuance of the design for months andknow everything you’re implying. It’s all about you. There are many case studies that show that alarge part of someone accepting the pitch is whether they like theperson (and team) pitching the idea. If you come across asunsure, incompetent, uncaring then why would you care should you getthe work? This can be a tough one to crack when you’ve taken thesame idea around lots of people but it’s very important to getright. Stay fresh or go home. Make every word and image count. Optimise the life out of yourpresentation when it’s ready to make sure you’re maximising yourpresentation time, communicating efficiently and clearly, notrepeating key statements and getting everything you want to say inthere. Keep it simple This is a little different to point 3, I’mreferring to the content itself. Your objective is to hook theperson and start a conversation about your pitch. Shy away fromgoing into uber detail that would scare someone off, keep numbers toa minimum, keep the text light on each page. Practise, practise, practice. I mean this. Really practice yourpitch, think about every word. The reason is that when it comes topresentation time you’ll know what you’re going to say, remembereverything you want to get across and also, critically, be moreconfident about what you’re doing.I would say that I have a pet hate, which is that the most common phraseI hear has to be  ”Pixar Style Animation” and it fills me with dread.There are 2reasons: Pixar communicates a style and ethos all of it’s own that goesdeeper than just it’s animation, it’s about how it makes you feel.There’s an emotion they’re you just can’t put into words, but it’sthere and it’s what makes it so good. More importantly you’ve set my expectations very high and I’mmore likely to be thinking “Prove It” or “I bet it isn’t” beforeI’ve seen anything. I’m instantly on the back foot and expectingfailure. What is the person trying to say in the 1st place?I’m allfor setting aspiration goals but you need to be able to prove them.Above all, do what you say you’re going to do.There are many similar phrases that you just simply have to be able toback up. Think about what expectations your setting and if they exist inthe real world before promising them. Would you fall for it?SummarySo, there it is, a few pointers on mostly what to avoid when preparingyour pitch and doing the presentation itself. Take your time, make sureyou’re ready, don’t rush and remember. To fail to prepare is to prepare to failIf you’re business depends on it, it’s worth the time and effort to getit right and get a professional to run through it with you! Shamelessselfplug.;)As always, if there’s something more you’d like to know, post a commentor contact me directly.###UPDATE:I’ve followed up with more information in ‘How To Improve YourPitch – Part 2‘Further Reading Presentation Zen - a blogdedicated to sharing the best presentation tips PresentationZen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery(Voices ThatMatter) -a great book that sets the basis for great presentations Presentation ZenDesign: Simple Design Principles and Techniques toEnhance Your Presentations (Voices ThatMatter) -a partner book that focuses ondesign

Getting the most out of E3 Expo 2010

5 min read

Well, it’s almost here, E3 Expo 2010 and it will be followed by manyother opportunities to get out there andnetwork: Game Connection,Develop, Gamescom, and if you’re lucky, Tokyo Game Show, etc.Over the years, I’ve attended my of these events as both someonepitching and someone listening to other peoples pitches and I have a fewtips to share.By now, you’ve obviously spent a lot of time, effort and moneycarefully preparing your pitch andpolished your presentation.You’ve no doubt booked a flight, hotel, got some spending money and needto feed yourself and probably some clients too. Your team have packedyou off with some good wishes and are waiting for you to let them knowhow it went. You may have family waiting on you too. All of this is amassive commitment and you’ve got a lot riding on it.Start with the least importantWhen scheduling your meetings, try an schedule your least important onesfirst; maybe even with some people that you’re not interested in.The reason is that it will give you some real-life experience ofpitching in the environment and enable you to debug you’re pitch andtweak if before you get to the big boys. This can be a good way ofweeding out problems with your demo, powerpoint deck, laptop, pointer,screen brightness too.You’ll also get feedback that you can incorporate into your pitch, maybethese are in the form of questions that you are asked that you can thenthink about a really good answer for.Pick your slotBe aware of the typical fluctuations in a persons attention span andlikely state.I’d hedge my bets on the best time being late morning, just beforelunch.Early mornings can fall foul of preceding heavy nights out partying orjetlag. Try and avoid these is possible. If you get time, take a peek atthe party schedule and avoid the day after.Afternoons are usually toughest, as people grow weary through thedraining aspect of running back-to-back meetings in hot, brightly litenvironments, battling against a lack of sleep and the onset of jetlag.Take OwnershipYou’ll be meeting lots of people and have a lot to remember, but, sowill the people you’re meeting and you need to make sure you’re at thetop of their pile when it comes to getting your game signed.Firstly, be clear and concise in what you say. Make everything count anddon’t expect anyone to remember everything you said.Assuming you’re pitch went well, you need to secure 2 things: Get Their Contact details. Make sure these are for the rightperson who you’ll be dealing with, who may be different to the personyou’re presenting to, which leads on to…2. How, when, where for you to follow up. Try and get thingspre-defined, “lets have a catchup call next Wednesday at 3pm” is betterthan “I’ll call you soon”. Aim to secure meeting dates too don’t letthese slip.Miss these two and you’ve just wasted your time, don’t rely on thelistener to chase you, you can bet your last dollar that there will beother people shouting louder than you and getting some attention.If you find that the listener won’t commit, then you can probably takeit as a sign they’re not interested and it’s time to move on. the squeaky wheel gets thegreaseDealing with rejectionWell, dealing with someone not being interested in your pitch cansometimes be hard but don’t take it personal. Try and find out why, thelistener will often be able to give you a good indication of what youneed to change before the next pitch. Take this as an opportunity toadapt your presentation for the next person you meet.There’s a lot of reasons they make not take up you’re offer and here’s acouple of non-obvious ones. Pitch Went Bad. Maybe you fluffed it, maybe you’re laptopbattery expired, maybe the listener got distracted with what they’rehaving for lunch. There’s no real answer here, sometimes it just doesn’tgo the way you wanted it.2. “we have similar titles in our portfolio” is a typical push off froma listener and most of the time it’s genuinely down to something thatalready exists or something they have in development elsewhere. There are rare occasions when they want to take your idea and make itthemselves, claiming this is something they had in production already.This can be something as big as the game, or something as small as agame mechanic. There’s nothing you can do about this except to expect it on rareoccasions. I’ve only seen this happen a handful of times across a 20yrcareer and it’s always heart wrenching to see.Do You HomeworkYou can be in a much strong position by doing your homework on thecompany and person you’re meeting beforehand. This will not only exposeany likely competition for your game but also enable you to come acrossas interested in them. All it takes is a bit of Google action to take care of it for the mostpart. People can be harder to find but I’d try[blippr]LinkedIn[/blippr] andMobyGames as a starting point.What next?I’ll repeat this here because it’s REALLY IMPORTANT!Always get confirmation on next steps, try and arrange a follow up call / meeting, GET THEIR CONTACT DETAILSPerpetual ImpressionAs a little aside, remember that every interaction will persist throughyour career as everyone moves around and over time the associateproducer you dismissed at a small publisher could end up being in chargeof acquisitions for a large international publisher later in your careerwhen you really need them. A buyer never forgetsWARNING: Don’t pitch if you’re unsure. It’s not worth it in the longrun.SummaryAttending one of these huge conventions is an exciting and importanttime, everyone always enjoys it and always has good stories to tell.Although some of those stories should never be repeated back home. ;)