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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