Hello and welcome! Whether you’re a hobbyist tinkering with a game idea in your free time or an experienced developer whose decided to work on their own IP, if you’re planning on approaching a publisher, we’ve developed this guide to help. We’ve seen a lot of pitches in our time in the indie publishing scene, and we often see pitches that don’t show what the developers are aiming for in the best way they can.
Your Pitch should be the conversation starter needed to grab a Publisher’s attention. Nothing is going to sell your game as well as the game itself! We’ve put together this guide and also this example pitch deck that will hopefully help you if you’re hoping to pitch to us, or any other publishers!
Remember that every publisher is different, so if you have a dream publisher in mind, do some research about what they look for when they’re looking at game pitches!
Before you reach out to a Publisher…
Get to Know What You’re Making
You should be the beacon of all knowledge when it comes to pitching your game! You don’t need to go into every detail in your pitch of your branching dialogue system or the combat design in your fighting game (though, if you’re doing something really interesting, definitely show it off!). You should know enough to know how long and how much it will take to finish development. If you know what mechanics will exist in your game, but don’t know how the player will use them in detail, you’ll have a hard time planning what you’re making.
The more you have figured out about your game’s design, the easier it will be to share your idea with publishers, and answer all their questions! An idea that’s well thought-out will mean that your production plan, pitch and budget will be more reliable.
What do You Need to Make the Game?
Take some time to consider the scope of what you want to make. How many levels are there? How many hours will the game be? Get to know what’s feasible with your resources or intended budget. Use your scope to plan how many team members you need to achieve your vision.
With your scope ready and your team prepared, develop a realistic timeline that tells a publisher how long development will take – ask for feedback from friends, other game developers or do some research on how long it might take to make your game!
Practice Communicating your Vision
When your plan is in place, learn how to tell people about your game in a way that gets an excited reaction. You don’t need to go into every little detail about how each little thing will work. Instead, you should be able to communicate the idea as concisely as possible. Here’s how some of the games we have been involved in were described clearly and succinctly:
“Take to the battlefield with Wargroove, a strategy game for up to 4 players! Choose your Commander and wage turn-based war on battling factions. Design and share maps, cut-scenes and campaigns with easy-to-use editors and in-depth customization tools!“
“INMOST is an atmospheric, story-driven puzzle platformer, following three playable characters within one dark, interconnecting story. In an old abandoned castle, you’ll need to explore every nook and cranny, avoid detection, slice your way through enemies and spring deadly traps in order to escape the evil that lurks within…”
Practice your description on your friends and family. Keep trying out different ways of describing what you’re making and identify when your audience gets excited about what you’re saying. Soon you’ll have a description that makes anyone who hears it want to know more!
When to Send Out Your Pitch…
When is a good time to Pitch?
Every publisher is different. Some will sign a game a short time before launch, others sign up years before. In a lot of cases, you want to have your game signed 6 months before launching. Ideally, we like to have at least a year before launch so that we can spend time researching the audiences, forging a community, growing excitement and building up wishlists!
What if your game has already been announced?
Your game announcement is a great opportunity to determine how much interest there is in your title. Some indies use interest from social media or Steam wishlists as part of their pitch to a publisher. Other indies like to utilise a publisher’s experience and knowledge to plan the announcement of their title. We don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach, and have signed announced and unannounced titles in various stages of their development.
Things Publishers Look Out For…
A Clear Hook
Why would people want to play your game? What are you bringing into the market that’s new and fresh? The more easily you can describe this hook, the more likely you are to catch the attention of publishers!
Visual Examples of What You’re Making
The more you have to show, the more interest publishers are likely to take. It’s unusual now to sign based on a game design document or a pitch deck alone. Within your pitch deck, we always love to see some engaging visuals such as GIFs, Videos and Concept Art.
If you don’t have art in your demo yet, provide some visuals that represents the final style that you’re aiming for, or something close to it!
A Developer Who Can Deliver on Their Ideas
Your pitch is as much about proving you’re capable of making the game as it is about the game itself.
If this is your first title, show that you can deliver by creating a demo of your gameplay. Spend some time refining and testing your gameplay and art so that any publisher will know how committed you are to seeing your game make it to market.
Publishers can only assume you can deliver on the level of fun you show them – the demos we love most are the ones that have a lot of thought and care put into them. Bugs don’t equal a bad prototype, publishers can see past issues and see the fun in a great idea!
A Budget that Makes Sense
It’s not always easy to chat about finances – and it’s very hard to ask for money. Here’s some tips when it comes to asking for funding:
Asking for less money doesn’t mean you’re more likely to be funded – in fact, a budget that isn’t possible to sustain a studio on may come across that you haven’t researched the cost of making a game.
Think through what you need – what will it cost to pay yourself for the length of development? What salaries do your team need? How much will running your studio cost?
Make sure your budget is backed up by a well thought through production plan.
Getting in Touch & Final Checklist!
How to Reach Out
Most publishers today have a submission page (here’s ours!) or an email address where you can send them your demo or pitch deck. From the first message, provide links that shows some of what you’re making. It can be a Steam Page, social media post, kickstarter – anything!
Many publishers receive multiple submissions each week, be sure to send something that’s informative and eye-catching so that they want to know more about what you’re doing!
Here’s some things we love to see from the pitches we receive:
- Gameplay Videos
- Concept Art or Gameplay GIFS
- Demos (No matter how buggy or early) – extra points if you can deliver your demo via Steam!
- A Pitch Deck or introductory email with all the key information we need to know about your game (when will it be ready? What platforms are you building it for? Do you need funding and how much?)
Feel free to check out our pretend pitch deck we made if we were to introduce Wargroove to some publishers for the first time!
We wish you every success in the journey to creating your own title, whether you’re looking for publishing support or going your own way!