Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Notes from the VGXPO2008: Pitching a Game Idea

The first session of the expo was a session where people got to pitch a game idea nad get feedback. I listened to about 5 or 6 ideas. The ideas weren't why I was there - I wanted to hear what kinds of feedback the judges gave, what kinds of questions the judges asked. Here are my notes from that expo. I think pitching will need to be a part of the sophomore class - it's a skill we all need to practice and it ties in with giving and getting feedback, another necessary skill.

General Advice
  • There are different types of pitches - to venture capitalists, to IPholders (to get permission to use their property), to other people in your company to try to get your game made
  • Different audiences want different information; some want more info, others less (the high level executive summary type presentaiton). For some people you need the "elevator pitch - 2 minutes or less - that is designed to pique the listener's interest and hopefully they will want to extend the conversation. If you're pitching an MMO to MMO developers then give lots of details about story and crafts and levels while other audience won't want that kind of detail.
  • Goal of pitch is to get people excited - you have to get them excited right from teh beginning
  • Pitch meeting is time to develop an internal champion, make connections with at least one person in the room.
  • Have to give the impression that you can get the job done - they're going to risk a large amount of money on you if they agree to do your game and they want to be sure you can deliver on your promises
  • When you first start out in the biz you'll be pitching to people who's job it is to screen out ideas. Don't ignore them tho - they're probably assistant producers and in a few years they will be in charge of something. Make a long term friend.
  • Most ideas get thrown away originally. Companies might have something like it in production already or might now have a team available. And sometimes idea is just bad.
  • Content pitches are tough to sell - no reason for audience to listen to long story
  • Remember - game is entertainment product and they're going to take liberties with your ideas and your content to make it more fun and cooler
  • Have to understand the play habits of people who play the kind of game you're pitching - if mobile game, need to understand how people play mobile (play in little bursts, can get text messages but might need them deferred since might be at work) - same iwth casual games (if you say you're going to have huge conversion rate you sound naieve), part of showing them you can get the job done successfully. You have to show you've thought about the potential problems in your kind of game - that features such as microtransactions won't mess up the balance of the game
Specific Advice - what to include in the pitch
  • Need to consider who's your main competition and what's going to make your game special, what differentiates it from other games. The differentiator might be the feature set the IP the price, how it's distributed
  • Say who's your intended audience (and it should be an audience that hte company wants to reach)
  • If you're tying in with some current trend or pop culture success, say so - they might be interested because that trend shows there's some interest in the topic
  • For the majority of games the story isn't that important, game depends on the core mechanics so don't downplay your mechanics
  • If you're pitching an MMO - you have to say how you're going to beat/compete with WOW, especially if your game doesn't have features that WOW type players like, how you're going to deal with subscriptions/make money such as by using microtransactions
  • Want people at the meeting to be able to see what the space looks like and how characters move and what characters look like
  • using industry terminology, catchy names for things in your game give the audience something to askyou about
Some topics that the judges thought were good/interesting right now - mmo's with microtransactions, free racing, games with non-stupid NPCs reputation AI for NPC, UGC, community features
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