Learn how to make a game pitch with Rami Ismail‘s presentation from GDC Europe 2014 held in Cologne.
This text is a transcription of sorts of Rami’s presentation. He was very generous in letting us put his presentation into text.
I hope this format suits people that are in a rush, or that prefer written to video.
At the end is the source video of the actual talk, which is a 100% recommended view.
Rami Ismail is the developer & business guy at Vlambeer. He also created presskit() & travels around the world to speak about game development and culture at events, schools and in emerging territories.
This talk is about how to communicate ideas, thoughts or products. It’s about how to pitch your game.
Do you need any special skills to pitch right?
You don’t need a degree for it and you don’t need a to be a gifted speaker. But you need to be able to figure out what you trying to say, practice that and then say it.
So, what is a pitch?
It’s the most effective way to communicate a value proposition. It means you have something that will increase value for other people.
Ok, what is a value proposition?
It’s a promise of value in any form, be it cultural, creative, intellectual or economical. All it matters is that it is value.
Why is pitching important?
Because communicating properly is important, because communicating is important. It’s the most respectful way of offering a value proposition to somebody that hasn’t a lot of time.
To whom can I pitch?
In the games industry: the press, the publishers, the platforms, and the players. The approach of your game pitch will be different depending on to whom you’re addressing.
What should I explain?
The important questions
The what, who and why.
Not every game pitch will require answering all these questions extensively, but at least you should have thought about them just in case you’re asked. If you’re working in a game, you’ll be passionate enough you’ll likely go through some of these branches of questions. For some other, you’ll require more intentional thought, maybe the business or design ones. If you do this, you’ll be able to give fast, concise, interesting answers.
When you think about all these questions in your mind, you come up with a lot of answers in your mind too. This web is what your game pitch really is.
Your pitch isn’t just about getting the first three sentences right. It’s about getting the first three sentences right so you pike curiosity so you can have a conversation with him or her about what you really want to talk about.
Who am I?
Introduce yourself to get credentials before your audience if they don’t already know you and what you’ve done. Knowing what the audience expects from you is important.
What matters to:
- Press – do I need to tell them who am I? Are you new to the industry or have you been in games for 30 years? Is this game your first Kickstarter?
- Publishers – have you got a team that is dependable?
- Platforms – have you previously made games on a big platform?
- Players – most don’t care, but there is a subgroup of players that want to know who makes the games they play.
Who am I pitching to?
Jargon is very important, do people understand the words I’m saying? Depending on who you’re pitching to you might want to adapt your speech.
What matters to:
- Press – websites and magazines want new stories. Both livestreamers and youtubers want interesting video games they can play in which people will be interested in.
- Publishers – what do they usually publish, is it right up their alley?
- Platforms – does the game fit the brand of the company you’re pitching to?
- Players – a common mistake is we assume the audience is knowledgable of the pitfalls and difficulties of making games. Recommendation: be open to them to avoid massive backlash if things go wrong.
Don’t pitch to Nintendo a game about chain-sawing humans.
What am I pitching?
Maybe not exactly the game, but something that exists through the game, be it emotional, economical, feelings, history, etc.
Construct a sentence that isn’t too long that starts with: The name of the thing you’re pitching is, and finish that sentence. If you’re using more than one comma, you’re doing it wrong.
“Ridiculous Fishing is a game about fishing with machine guns.”
This pitch has what stands out of the game and tells all the important things about it.
Tell people what stands out of your game, not what’s the same as in other games.
What matters to:
- Press – what’s the news angle.
- Publishers – how it fits in their portfolio.
- Platforms – is it good for their devices and will help sell more hardware? Does the game use the latest tech specs of the device?
- Players – is it clear what this game is?
Don’t play the “let’s be mysterious” with our game unless you’re very confident with it. Most people will look at your game and say “I don’t know what the hell this is” and click the exit button.
Why am I pitching that?
This is all about the value proposition. What are you adding, what are they getting they wouldn’t get otherwise? How will “what you’re pitching” achieve the value proposition. What is the reason for you to be offering them this value proposition. What are your reasons?
What matters to:
- Press – sometimes it’s not about getting more sales. Maybe it’s raising awareness of your game, or doing a post-mortem to direct attention to your company.
- Publishers – what will this collaboration bring to the game, that you wouldn’t have otherwise?
- Platforms – what are your goals by collaborating with this platform.
- Players – is this exciting? Find a way to get people excited for your game. You know what your game is about, they don’t.
Why am I pitching that to you?
It’s a good idea to have a rough idea who you’re pitching to. If you’re not pitching to the right person the right way, you’re wasting yours, and their time. It feels very disrespectful when you don’t have a clue who is in front of you. Obviously, this is the perfect way to loose them.
Sometimes there’s a special value to pitching to a specific audience or company.
What matters to:
- Press – think about specific audiences. For example, what do Rock Paper Shotgun or Touch Arcade care about?
- Publishers – what does this publisher offer that others don’t?
- Platforms – does your game use most of the features of the platform? Seems like a good fit then!
- Players – if you’re in a Kickstarter or any crowd funding, establish why you need money from them and why you haven’t asked big companies to give it to you.
What would you gain from what you’re pitching?
What is the value proposition, and how does that gain significantly affect the receptor.
What matters to:
- Press – more readers who hopefully appreciate the content.
- Publishers – make money.
- Platforms – exclusivity for the platform of the game.
- Players – how to convince people to buy it early access when it isn’t finished. What value do you add if they buy in Early Access? How to convince people to beta test and pay money for it. Create extra value you can offer.
During Nuclear Throne early access we stream twice a week, gather info and suggestions from the beta testers. We’re very open about the mishaps of the development. Ultimately, people are happy they bought the early access and left mostly positive responses. 450 vs 2.
What would this gain cost?
It’s about what you need to make this happen.
What matters to:
- Press – how much time would it take to write an article. Press kit lowers the cost of talking about the games.
- Publishers – how much money do you want?
- Platforms – featuring, marketing, money and what do they get in return.
- Players – what does the game cost? Sometimes, games don’t cost what they are priced at.
People sometimes wait for sales (on Steam). Is it worth the wait –until when early access finishes– or is it better to pay full price and get all this extra months of enjoyment from the game. What is the perceived value for the game?
Structuring your game pitch
It’s mostly about time. It’s the variable you’re optimising against.
The baseline of a game pitch is that when you’re done with it the amount of information the person that you’re talking to –the gain of having that information– outweighs the time they had to listen to you.
It basically comes to, don’t waste people’s time.
A good pitch structure will allow you to start pitching, and then figure out whether its appropriate to keep pitching and what the cost for that person is.
At the top of this pyramid is a tiny bit of information. That information needs to explain as much as possible about the game.
It’s the elevator pitch. Short and to the point. Maximum 30 seconds. A few sentences, maybe 1 to 3. They have the highest density of information you can possibly get. Think of it as a mathematical function, the more you can simplify it, the less space it needs to take to communicate the same thing the better. Make it clearer getting rid of words that aren’t specific enough.
The lede can be perfected through trial and error.
Once you’ve got the attention, you can start talking a little more in depth about it. Answer as many of the important questions you’ve considered before. Talk about the platforms the game is available, about your expansion plans, etc.
The call to action
Flat out say it, this is what I need from you. For example:
Follow us on Twitter.
Don’t try to shroud it. Be direct and honest.
Everything is a game pitch.
When delivery is Written
- The lede – under 200 words
- The body – 2/3 paragraphs
- The call to action – 1 paragraph
It’s usually a design document or a press release. Let other people read what you wrote and tell you what they feel about it. It’s very difficult to express tone with writing, so strive to avoid ambiguity in words. Re-read things as you’re a firefighter.
When delivery is an Image
Usually used to convey things in a structured manner, like in a poster or a banner. Put the important stuff where your composition has focus. A banner or a poster are also a game pitch, so try to answer the same questions as in a regular pitch.
When delivery is through a Speech
The lede is one sentence long quite often. The shorter the better. It requires confidence to speak, but also confidence to listen. Pitching is 30% talking and 70% listening, or figuring out what the other person in interested in. Try to respond quickly but thoughtfully. If you’ve put effort in thinking in the questions beforehand you’ll be able to respond quickly.
Speaking can convey emotions, it’s very important to remember that.
When delivery is a Presentation
They’re the best way to present very complex informations. Part spoken and part written, so it combines the best of the two. Start with the lede as well. Focus ion the why before focusing in the what.
People are more interested in the why than the what. What is cool, but why is way cooler.
Why will I have a good experience from this game.
Game Pitch Pro Tips
Start the presentation by exchanging business cards.
Because the business card is like a ‘get-out-of-this-pitch-free-card’ for the person listening to your game pitch. Like, “here’s my card, send me an email”, and he or she runs away. If you exchange cards before, you’ve essentially taken away this from them, they have to sit through it for a bit longer and it’s like a second chance.
Always be ready to pitch your game. Fast.
Your pitch shouldn’t seem practiced, it should come natural. The irony though is you need to practice your pitch. Practice with other people, not in front of the mirror. Don’t be too proud of your game to communicate what your game is about.
Don’t be afraid to pitch because it’ll mean:
a. They won’t believe what you’re pitching.
b. You know your pitch isn’t good enough.
c. You don’t understand the nature of pitching.
The nature of pitching
The nature of pitching is not a one time thing. You can pitch something and fail. You should keep tweaking and keep seeing how things work. Pitch to everybody, see how they respond.
This is the source video ‘In 3 Sentences or Less: Perfecting Your Pitch’ for this text. By Rami Ismail