IMG_0423_1Nordic Game 2009 conference included a session “Pitching the Game”, in Art of the Deal panel series (Led by Jason Della Rocca), that was topical for our interests.

“Pitching the game” was interesting panel from the point of view of ownership of vision and practical issues with communication between developers and publishers. The panel discussion included interesting approaches and was also rather entertaining – much obliged to our homeboy Jussi Laakkonen from EveryPlay.

The panel was led by Jason Della Rocca, other speakers included:
Johan Kristiansson, Starbreeze (SE)
Jussi Laakkonen, Everyplay (FI)
Jeff Hilbert, DDM (US)
Caspar Gray, Eidos (UK)
Peter Zetterberg, MGS (UK)

There is certainly a need for understanding the fine art of pitching your concept. It is not only about presenting a clear and inspiring vision, it is also communication between two different visionaries. Publishers are looking for innovation and good execution of innovation, but they also want to see the creative process as a collaborative process. There are certain directions that are set by the publishers point of view and developers need to understand what goes with these directions. Or see the possible gaps in the publishers line-up. From this point of view a finished product can be harder to sell.

From the developers point of view the burden of pitching can be too much and then the road to self publishing may be the only way. Jussi Laakkonen from Everyplay was emphasizing how frustrating the pitching may be, since there is almost never clear answers and it is difficult to know what the publishers are looking for. The response for the pitch is too often: “its a good pitch, we love the game” but then they will never sign.

Publishers advocates in the panel were emphasizing that they have strict plans and these plans may not be unproblematically opened. From the publishers perspective, the direct response is challenging, since there are so many things to do. There simply is no conspiracy in the sense, that the concepts would be stolen and then produced elsewhere. Fortunately there are agents, that can work in between these two delivering the message to both sides: whether publisher is looking for something that you are developing or whether there is a client that is working on such titles that you are looking for.

As a practical example of the form of the pitch, Johan Kristiansson was describing what pitches of Strabreeze consists of. Typical pitch is a 20 pages power point presentation with story, theme, rough budget, reference games or other inspiration sources.

Publishers also reminded that there are many pitches that are uninspiring and concentrating on the logical stuff over the passion. “Speak to their heart, sell what makes them/you excited” was one of the advices of the publishers.

But one has to be prepared for the questions. If you cannot say what your players are playing currently and how to get them to play your game, you are not in a good spot. Generally questions are good signal, if you get loads of questions it usually means that publishers are interested. But there is one exception: if the conversation turns into money, they probably are not that convinced.

As a final note, publishers were advising not to skimp when it comes to getting the deal. Preparation and a good presentation is a key. And don’t come with your fathers suit and feel awkward. Be yourself instead!