We have been focusing on putting together pitch decks and sending them out to publishers and investors over the last couple of months. So we thought it would be useful to share what we’ve learned over the process! Here are some steps we took as well as some tips we learned while pitching Psychroma.
Selling our game idea
We wanted to start the process of pitching really early on in Psychroma’s development, basically as soon as we had a prototype to show. This meant that we had to have a fairly solid idea of what the game is going to be in terms of genre, gameplay and presentation. We also needed enough of an idea about the story to intrigue the player right away, and to formulate an elevator pitch.
In case you were unfamiliar, an elevator pitch is a short, two sentence description of your game and what it’s about. This can be an extremely difficult thing to create, since boiling your game down to a couple of sentences can seem really generalized and lacking in context for all your cool ideas to come across. However, we learned the average player searching for games on any respective storefront often makes a split-second decision on whether to consider purchasing your game, which only gives you a few sentences to really grab their attention. If your elevator pitch is too long, isn’t clear about the game they’re about to purchase, or isn’t very attention-grabbing, you run the risk of losing them immediately and not making that sale.
You may be wondering “well, why is grabbing the consumer’s attention quickly important to pitching your game?” , and that is because a lot of publishers want to see that your game’s pitch will be able to do that by also grabbing their attention. If a publisher is intrigued by the elevator pitch alone, this allows them to see the market potential of your game immediately. Most publishers we’ve looked into pitching to explicitly ask to include your elevator pitch upfront, often in the first email to them.
The next step in selling our game idea was putting together a features list, along with visually impressive art and gameplay taken directly from Psychroma’s prototype. We needed to highlight what made our game stand out from others like it, and give the investor an idea about what to expect in terms of gameplay, mechanics, visuals, and story. We captured various moments from the prototype and created a trailer, gifs and screenshots from those clips. We also came up with the features we wanted to include throughout Psychroma, before even making a game design doc. These features can really be dependent on a lot of factors, such as what kind of game we’re making and what’s expected of them, the amount of time and budget we have to develop them, and the overall scale of the project.
After we had all the info needed for Psychroma together, next was the funding proposal part.
Budgeting, funding goals, and other fun logistical stuff
This is the part where we get to the heart of the pitch – the things we expect for development and what we’re asking for. Unsurprisingly, this is also the part of the pitch that the whole team really needed to weigh in on and help make a project roadmap for.
To figure out how much Psychroma would cost to make, we first had to determine (and estimate) how long it would take to fully complete development on it. This kind of long-term planning takes a lot of guesswork and doesn’t always work out in game development (in fact, it rarely ever does), but it’s an important step towards having an idea of the length of our project and allows all the departments to talk openly and honestly about what will be expected of them, and whether it would be realistic. It also allows us to get an idea of how much our monthly burn rate is as a studio. Burn rate means how much is the minimum amount spent on running your studio. This includes costs like rent, salaries/wages, and any equipment/software costs.
Keeping in mind that games are expensive to make, we wanted to be able to keep the scale of Psychroma flexible. We drew up schematics for what the minimum viable game would look like, versus the full-scale version, including the features we want and what that design would look like. The reason we did this was so in case we wouldn’t be able to secure funding for the full-scale game, we would still have a plan for a scaled-back version early on.
Once we had our budget figured out, we had to then assess how much we would realistically be able to put into funding our next game from our studio, and then extrapolate from that how much to ask for from investors/publishers. Depending on what publishers often are willing to fund, these numbers could look different from each pitch. Some publishers only cover the cost of developing the game, while others will cover marketing, Q&A, localization and console porting costs. It often depends on the size of the publisher. Since we are only approaching small indie publishers, we may have to seek other sources of funding as well to cover those extra costs of publishing Psychroma.
Although this isn’t strictly necessary, we learned it goes a long way to demonstrate to publishers that you have some sort of marketing plan in mind for your game. For Psychroma we have kept ours very loose, with marketing beats plotted out for every major milestone in our development roadmap. In the past we have solely relied on best practices and strategies employed for $0 indie marketing, which got us a good amount of attention for Raptor Boyfriend on announcement and launch. But it is still the one factor of selling our games that has held us back the most, and we feel one of the most valuable things a publisher could offer us is industry event and showcase opportunities that were not available to us before.
Building a Pitch Deck
Now that we have all the elements ready to pitch, we have to put it together in a slick, easy-to-read slide presentation. This essentially is what a pitch deck is. Since each investor is looking for different things, your pitch deck may look a little different from investor to investor. But essentially the things that always stay the same are the features and info about the game your pitching, the info about the studio, and your development roadmap.
The key to this stage is getting all the important info across in a succinct, yet visually appealing way. We found it helped us to have an over-arcing design philosophy and template to work off of. I anyone was interested, we used some of these lovely indie game pitch decks as inspiration for our Psychroma pitch deck – https://www.notion.so/Pitch-Decks-f56e38c13fe6417f8379859e74367e1a
Sending out the email
Once we have our pitch deck together, we sent out emails to the publishers and investors we wanted to work with. As with the pitch deck, every publisher/investor has different protocols on how you should send the email. But we’ve heard general good practices include attaching 1 small GIF/screenshot in the body of the email, explaining who you are, a bit about the game you are pitching (usually the elevator pitch/short description), a link to your pitch deck, a link to a trailer, and finally a link to an early build or prototype to your game. Some publishers aren’t even interested in looking at your pitch email unless you have a game build to share, so it was super important for us to have something ready for them to play.
As to finding the contacts of the publishers you are looking to pitch to, that may require some research and asking around. This is why we approached the smaller indie publishers, because usually they have more of an open-door policy when it comes to pitching to them. Bigger publishers like Annapurna or EA don’t have a very accessible way of getting their attention, especially at the size we are. Also the requirements of developing our game more fit the scale of what smaller publishers are willing to support. With that being said, never say never! We may yet get an email from a bigger publisher or establish contact with someone who could get us an in with them through pure happenstance. Although rare, it does happen!
That’s all for pitching. Once again, thank you for reading! We hope you have found this interesting or insightful.