A few weeks ago, we were part of the Dev.Play conference in Bucharest. One of the fun things we did there was the “Nordic Game Discovery @ Dev.Play” which is a qualifier phase for the main 2018 Nordic Game Discovery Contest.
At the end of the day, Yaga qualified for the finals in Malmo next year! However, we were not satisfied with out pitch, so as soon as we came back we looked at what we could improve. What we learned may help some of you planning to pitch a game either to a business partner or in a similar contest.
The rules mentioned three important questions:
- What is the concept or purpose of the game?
- Which features make your game unique?
- What is the game’s business model, and why?
We built our slide deck around these questions. Let’s take a look at them!
We tried to distill the concept in 2 slides: the elevator pitch (the core of the game in 2 sentences) and an overview of the kind of experience we are after (structured as a comparison with reference games).
Next was tackling the “uniqueness” of the game. Four slides, each trying to showcase something that is actually unique about the game. My first impulse was to talk about actual gameplay features in the game, but it’s really hard to say that “crafting” or “reputation” are unique things.
“Role-playing as a leveling-up tool” is something we hold dear. Lots of games include a reputation system, but we want perks and character abilities to become available based on how you play the game. Staying consistent in your personality yields increasing bonuses, but breaking out of your personality in critical plot points results in huge bonuses by creating narrative character arcs.
“Game-Changing Crossroads” is a mechanic that allows players to influence the difficulty and the story of the game. Granted, it’s not totally unique, since it’s a combination of Bastion’s Totems and “Chose your own adventure” mechanics, but there is a small twist to it.
“Charming and quirky Slavic Folklore” is something that is not often enough seen in video games.
“Become a folktale hero” is the experience we want the players to expect and feel when playing the game.
We added this section to make sure people understand what it is that you actually do in the game, from the gameplay perspective. These slides are self-explanatory. (I did of course talk over them, but there’s no use going into details here)
The Business Model
This section was the best and the worst section of our pitch. We added it in at the last minute (at 5:30 in the morning before the pitching contest), since I decided to take one more look at the slides and the rules and saw that third item, talking about the “business plan”.
I initially glossed over it, since the description of the contest had phrases like “convince the judges that your game is the one that deserves to be discovered” or “the expert panel will look at how well your game plays; features, modes and controls, as well as how appealing and enjoyable the game seems” or “They will also judge your game’s graphics, layout, sound, music and overall look; how unique the game is, as well as what makes it standout in terms of story, gameplay, features, controls, etc.”
This led us (and other contestants we’ve talked to after the pitches) to believe the contest is judging the game itself rather than the pitch. We all kind of missed the phrase “And not least: they’ll judge you on how well you pitch your game as well!”. We are not complaining nor looking for excuses, but it serves as a reminder to really be careful with what you include in the pitch.
So, back to business! We put in data like: monetization and target platforms, followed by what we can do ourselves, and what we are looking for in a potential partner (and by partner, we mean a publisher if one is reading this and wants to support a cool game)
I said this section was the best and the worst thing in our pitch. The best because it paid off adding it even at the last moment. According to the judges, this was pretty important and I assume it gave us an edge. On the other hand, this is the section where the feedback from the judges was unanimous: not good enough! All of them pretty much said that the pitch needs to include at least the following data:
- production plan (milestones, launch date, etc)
- expected number of copies sold
- price point
- post launch plans
- target audience description
- target audience estimated size
- competitor analysis
We did have most of this data researched and I provided the numbers when asked, but not actually having them in the pitch looked like we didn’t do our homework and didn’t have a real business plan. So if at this point you haven’t yet thought of the above things, do it now!
Trailer and Closing Section
The last thing on the slides was the trailer. I knew I had 5 minutes for the pitch, and the trailer is 1m:50s so I kind of timed my presentation so that I would start the trailer with about 40 seconds left on the clock. My thinking was that they could watch the first part of the trailer without interruptions, and then during the next 5 minutes allotted for jury questions, the jury members not actively asking me stuff could see the rest of the trailer running on the big screen.
I did manage to get my timing right, but I’m not sure it was for the best. Due to technical issues of the media system there was no sound playing. So those 40 seconds of visuals without silence were a little awkward. I probably could have used those to talk more about the game. And after the jury started asking questions I’m pretty sure they stopped paying attention to the rest of the trailer. Plus, the first 40 seconds of the trailer are not the best part, so that’s another missed opportunity.
It would probably have been better to end slides with a looping video of gameplay with no narrative. This wouldn’t require continuous watching, but would be there to showcase the game when someone’s eyes stopped over it.
We now have some clear points to improve our pitch until the next time. But it’s always important to adapt the pitch to the audience. It’s not the same thing pitching to investors, publishers, press or the public. I’ll close off with a few links related to pitching that I read over time. I just wish I had the inspiration to re-read them when preparing our pitch 🙂
- http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1020877/In-3-Sentences-or-Less (you can find a written summary here)