It can be the biggest stumbling block of video game production: you have a killer team and an awesome new idea, and now it’s time to find somebody to actually pay to develop it. There are two things you have to know: where to pitch, and how to pitch your game.
Most video game studios are small (we at Fragile Earth Studios included), so you don’t have the benefit of internal funding sources, and you probably don’t have an investor network raring to go. In that case, you have a few options open to you, two of which I’ll lay out briefly:
No matter what option you go with, eventually you’re going to have to pitch your ideas. When that time comes, be it in a presentation or online, there are a few fundamental rules that I’ve found are vital any time you give a pitch. These can be summed up as 4 ideas: frame your pitch; show, don’t tell; communicate effectively; and grab them early.
Frame your pitches to the audience. Clients and investors don’t really care about the technology. They don’t care about the cool new battle system you’re introducing. They do care about why your game is going to be successful, how much it’s going to cost, and how long it will take. Tell them about the market research you’ve done, the platforms you’re releasing on, the competition you face, and your business plan (and if you don’t know these things, you aren’t ready to pitch a game). Frame your pitch it terms of ROI, and why they should choose you over other investments they may be looking at.
If you’re crowdsourcing, on the other hand, your audience does potentially care about your cool new battle system. They care about the genre and aesthetics (in the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics sense) of your game, because by funding you they’re indicating their desire to play the game. So tell them why your game is different, and what your design thesis is – that is, what are you trying to do or explore with your game? Keep it short, preferably something that can be remembered and shared later in a conversation, an email, a blog post or a tweet. A lot of research has gone into why people play games, and what makes a game successful – if you don’t know these things, again, you aren’t ready to pitch a game.
Whenever possible, show, don’t tell. Don’t explain your cool new battle system – mock something up. Humans are very visual creatures, and an image is going to have a lot more impact (and be better remembered) than bullet points or an explanation of an idea. You don’t always have the time or resources to create visuals for everything, so focus on the things that can’t be explained easily.
Learn to communicate effectively. Don’t be afraid to repeat things: tell people what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them you said it. For live presentations, always practice in front of people, in a ‘live’ setting (e.g. not from your desk).
Grab their attention early – you have 60 seconds to wow them, so don’t waste any time. Show your product right up front (remember: show, don’t tell), and briefly hit all the major points (like business plan) before diving into any of them. You should practice ‘having energy’ beforehand, preferably while you’re already practicing in front of people. Make sure you have 1-2 sentences at the beginning on:
In summary: you have a number of options for funding your game, from crowdfunding to VC. No matter where you go, you need to have an effective pitch. If you can be visual, communicate effectively, grab their attention early, and frame your pitches to your audience, you’ll have a much better chance of getting off the ground.