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Thread: Pitching, Pitch Documents & the pitch

  1. #1
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    Default Pitching, Pitch Documents & the pitch

    Rather than respond to various other postings about pitch document and pitching, I thought Id write a more expansive posting about how I see pitch documents and pitching.

    DISCLAIMER: The information and examples in this post are written specifically to promote conversation and debate, and dont necessarily reflect all my thoughts on the subject. My assumption for this post is that the studio cannot self-fund the title and needs to rely on a publisher for support.

    Pitching goes through a series of escalations which takes the initial idea and develops it through the necessary stages for it to become a live project. You shouldnt miss out any of the steps, otherwise necessary details get lost or perverted and then there is a danger that a game goes into the pre-production phase on a less than sensible basis.

    Internal Pitch
    The first kind of pitch really is the internal one. Its the kind of pitch where the designer or other team members have an embryonic idea, something that might be based on a personal interest or a game thats derivative of something that they play or have played. At this point, the pitch is really aimed at other team members and other employees. Its a test-the-water pitch to see if there is some generic interest within the company to progress the idea. Questions to resolve at this point are:

    Is the overall subject interesting?
    Are the characters and their environment inclusive or appealing to the mass market?
    What is the potential to do something new or innovative?
    Is there a clearly defined gap in the marketplace for a game like this?

    The level of detail at this point is minimal. Its about the bigger picture, about putting a vision together that other team members can understand and that management can visualise as a commercial product.

    The game is set in the wild west. The player plays in first person a la half life. The game has a photo realistic art style and is targeted at next generation consoles and PC. The twist in the game is that the residents of the world are all vampires and are transformed during the night time, forcing the player to fight in duels and shootouts during the daylight hours and to fight demons and vampires at night.

    What needs to go in at this point is a story synopsis, some concept art to establish the character look and feel and give some insight as to what the environment might look like. Possibly a short walkthrough of a bit of game play, but nothing more than a short sequence.

    The indicators to take this to the next stage are some baseline interest from other team members, confirming that the core principles are there. Often the best indication is that other team members start to add or develop the concept almost immediately through conversation, innovating as they go. Without this kind of reaction its unlikely that the core concept has legs and probably needs dropping or a rethink.

    Management Pitch
    Next up is to pitch the potential for the game to the management. They have a completely different set of concerns. The business cycle for pitching a game to publishers can be 6-9 months minimum from pitching to agreeing the deal and that pitch process can cost tens of thousands of pounds, so each game going into the publisher pitching cycle has to be chosen carefully.

    This part of the process is where the designer of the concept has to connect the game to the business side of things, if it doesnt add up financially then why would the company want to do it? So at this point the key factors revolve around commercial aspects:

    Is there a defined player for this product?
    If so, on what platform and why?
    What evidence is there that there is a place for this in the current market?
    Is there a publisher(s) that have a background and track record in the genre/platform that we can target?
    What are the sales figures for titles that are in a similar place in the market?
    Can we deliver a quality product under the studios time/financial/skills constraints?
    What are the risks, both development and commercial?
    Does the game fit onto a platform and in a genre that the company has identified as commercially viable?
    Does the company have tools and technology needed to deliver the game as per the vision?
    Does the company have the skills internally to deliver the game as per the vision?
    Does the company have the capacity to start a new title?

    The management must be able to see that the game presents no level of extreme risk, has a firm commercial footing in the marketplace and can be competitive. The only real design question will be around the proposed games Unique Selling Points (USPs). The proposed game probably needs 5-6 clear USPs to give it some leverage in the marketplace; those USPs must be clear in this phase of the pitch.

    Our game is unique in several areas. We would be the first game to connect the Wild West and the vampire genres. We would be able to have 2 very distinctive art styles in the day and night sections as well as 2 different set of weapons. The game play would change as the game cycles from day to night and back again. Potentially we can add new peripherals such as Natal to allow the player to have a more intense interaction with the other characters. The game would be developed with new digital distribution platforms in mind, so the game can be delivered digitally if required and the content can be episodic.

    The document delivered to support this pitch is built on top of the materials from the early internal pitching. So, the story elements are probably expanded a little (but still not detailed), the concept art has probably also expanded to include the main cast of characters and the main game locations. There is still no technical detail. Added to this is now the above Business Case, the reasons why this makes commercial sense for the company to take this game concept forward. Designers need to not be ignorant to the business case, otherwise they will continue to design games that have no commercial angle and therefore dont go into production.

    The outcome of this pitch is one of three things:

    The management love it, create a budget and give the project some human resources to allow them to develop the concept for the next stage of pitching. This should include the development of some kind of prototype.
    The management thinks it has potential but still needs some work, either on the design or the commercials and ask the designer to come back with a revised version taking into account the areas they feel are weak or unclear.
    The management doesnt see that the commercials are compelling enough to push forward. If the risks are high and the potential rewards minimal or if they feel that the pitch-to-publisher is going to be difficult or long winded then this should go forward.

    Publisher Pitch
    Pitching to publishers is time consuming and expensive, so the number of games that come through to this stage should be limited and represent the top 10% of ideas coming out of the studio. The level of presentation required is huge and the development of a game play demo means that the company may well have had to commit tens of thousands of pounds to a game at this stage.
    Pitching is usually to a member of the publishers development team, a producer or head of production. They need to absorb this stuff to a level where they can re-present the concept internally to the bean counters, so there needs to be a level of clarity in the pitch that allows that to take place.

    The pitch to the publisher needs to establish:

    The studios credibility and capability to deliver
    The potential for the exciting and innovative games product you have brought to show them
    The business case, why this product has potential in the marketplace
    The timing is right, why do the game now
    The budget, that the game can work financially for the publisher and the studio

    Publishers make business decisions. The scary fact is that a lot of people involved in games publishing are not game players. Therefore a publisher pitch is 80% business 20% games. The pitch at this point must be about benefits and not about features. If youre pitch is about the tech in the game or the new texturing and lighting approach or the high frame rate in multiplayer then its unlikely to work.
    The pitch needs to focus in on the benefits. So the game has defined player in a part of the market that is active. There is some supporting evidence from other games in the genre to show that the subject overall is interesting. The game can be delivered on a set of economics that give it a good chance of making money, there are some hooks for the marketing people to work with, the platform has a good installed base and that the game will still have all these benefits when its delivered in x months/years time.

    Summary
    The games design is of course very important but the process of pitching a games design must connect on every level to the business behind gaming. Far too many studios in the past have developed and pitched good games concepts that have little or no commercial viability and it has become the thing that brings the company to its knees.

    Its a very fundamental point that there is a massive difference between a good game and a commercial one. We see lots of great games made every year that very few people play. As a designer thats involved in the pitch process you must see how you connect your creations to the market and how that market between publishers and developers actually works.

  2. #2
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    very good post i hope that when i do pitch to a publisher etc it will go well but there is no guarentee you will hit the mark 100% of the time id like to but still its gonna be tough but lol got the pitch project to practice on in 2 parts time so then hopefully get good

  3. #3
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    It reminds me of watching people come onto Dragons Den and failing epicly.

  4. #4
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    Is it weird that I actually want to see this game? Red Dead Darkstalkers!

  5. #5

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    Can we see a example format of an high concept please

  6. #6
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    Copy, Print...Top post, helped a lot, cheers

    SilverBack86

  7. #7

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    This is very helpful thank you. I have just started working on a Powerpoint presentation. I believe I have the structure down, but I find myself at a road bloke. Mostly out of nerves that what I make is not good enough and also because I do not have anyone to possibly get feedback on.

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