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Advice when Submitting Prototypes to Publishers

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Dravvin
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Hi all,

I've been lucky enough to get 2 of my games invited to be submitted for evaluation by publishers over the weekend. This is my first time getting to this stage and has come about rather more quickly than I expected so not feeling completely prepared for it!

I have some prototypes (almost) ready to go which I had originally allocated for a 2nd round of blind playtesting so being able to send them isn't an issue - however I would like some words of wisdom for those who have previously submitted and been successful or unsuccessful.

One of the publishers is very large (100+ titles released exc. expansions) the other small/medium (15+ titles released exc. expansions).

I've read James Mathe's Do's and Don'ts and various interviews with Stephen Buonocore (unfortunately Stronghold said they aren't currently interested in coop games :( )

I will be abiding by what I've gleamed in these articles/interviews but any other words of wisdom and things to include/not include would be greatly appreciated.

My plan is to include the following:

- Full game inc. all pieces (obviously!)
- Multiple copies of the rule book (plus a digital version which I'll email over when I confirm shipment)
- Copy of sell sheet
- Ideas for improvements/enhancements that I have not yet playtested but have the concept of to show future potential or to reduce component count/cost (is this a good idea?), e.g.
* What content could be moved into an expansion;
* How to replace part of the game which I get mixed playtesting feedback on (not in the majority but it's something that could be picked up) - I haven't managed to playtest the alternative yet but just wanted to let them know the possibility of how it could work;
* How to add a competitive mode (one against many) to what is currently a fully cooperative game (again unplaytested but I've the workings of an idea).

Should I include:
- Any playtester feedback (e.g. overall score given by all blind/public playtesters?, what else?)
- Things that I think are known weaknesses that I am working to fix?

Have I missed anything? Should I exclude any of my proposals above?

TIA

ssm
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I have not submitted. One

I have not submitted.
One thing I think about when I think about approaching a publisher is looking at the components of the games they publish. If any of the components for their other titles can crossover into your title, it may be a very good selling point as it reduces the cost to produce your title, plus they may be impressed you know so much about the other titles the publish.

questccg
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Words of "caution"...

I noticed that perhaps you are "divulging" TOO MUCH with the submission requests. Alternate rules, expansion ideas and all that is GOOD - but I would refrain from discussing this at this time.

Firstly you don't want your design to be judged based on what is MISSING or could be ADDED at a later time.

Try to focus solely on the game AS-IS... And see what they think. Sure every game wants to have expandability - but based on what I understand these are JUST ideas. Ideas can sway a potential publisher, if they feel the game as it is may seem "incomplete"...

Sell sheet, pictures, etc. all that is good.

But discussing what could be moved to an expansion, how to re-tool the game for less expensive production, etc. are all things most likely the Publisher will handle on their own or may ask for your opinion at the right time.

Don't ruin your chances by introducing more "uncertainty". Go with a SOLID prototype - and hopefully someone will be interested in it.

Cheers and best of luck(?!) with your game...

Note: This was my own approach, I submitted the rulebook and sent sample images to OLG. A couple paragraphs about the game in the e-mail introducing both myself and my game. They came back and asked me if I could send them copies of the game. From that point on, we've been refining and improving the game so that it has the most appeal to the majority of gamers.

And yes we have discussed expansions (we've implemented two) and will be moving forwards with others. But the key point is that I didn't start the discussing say: "Oh yeah - there can be more added or some things moved to an expansion..." Again not criticism, just some cautionary advice.

Dravvin
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Thank-you both. Very useful

Thank-you both.

Very useful advice!

JohnBrieger
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I'm with Quest on this

deleted extrapost

JohnBrieger
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I'm with Quest on this

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JohnBrieger
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I'm with Quest on this

I've just been going through the same thing submitting prototypes (IDK if we were both at UKGE), but earlier this year, I went all the way through the process on two games (though both are for 2018 releases)

I'm new to the industry also, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I wouldn't include information on how to change the game or the variants. If you pitched the game in person, it's the type of stuff to mention there (I usually touch on expandability in pitches if possible)

Full Game is a must, as is contact info. I email a digital version of rules along with a digital sell sheet, but include contact info on the outside of the box, on the physical copy of the rules, and put a business card in each box as well.

I would not include any of the following things you listed:

Ideas for improvements/enhancements that I have not yet playtested but have the concept of to show future potential or to reduce component count/cost (is this a good idea?), e.g.
* What content could be moved into an expansion;
* How to replace part of the game which I get mixed playtesting feedback on (not in the majority but it's something that could be picked up) - I haven't managed to playtest the alternative yet but just wanted to let them know the possibility of how it could work;
* How to add a competitive mode (one against many) to what is currently a fully cooperative game (again unplaytested but I've the workings of an idea).

Should I include:
- Any playtester feedback (e.g. overall score given by all blind/public playtesters?, what else?)
- Things that I think are known weaknesses that I am working to fix?

To me, they signal that you aren't confident in the core game's design e.g. "well we could do this, or this, or this other thing..." Your prototype submission is a continuation of your sales pitch, not a development discussion which will happen after they decide they like the game.

While marketabiltiy and the potential for expansion is a plus, they are buying the game on the core of the play, not your variants or expansion ideas. Especially for a larger publisher where they might retheme your game and are definitely going to do some additional development.

DEFINITELY don't include any content or variants you haven't playtested. What if they played them and rejected your game because of it? You want to sell them on your game, then talk variants or expansion content after they have decided to sign you. And if they feel the game needs variants, they'll ask you, or you can send your ideas after (I proposed a solo mode after signing Mars Rover).

Dravvin
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Thank-you John. I'll minimise

Thank-you John.

I'll minimise what I send and only send any further information if it is requested.

questccg
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The HOOK is important...

Some of the publishers I approached earlier (before OLG), wanted to know what the HOOK of the game was... And it was difficult for me to explain because I always took the time to define my game as a set of mechanics used in other games.

One publisher went as far as to say: "What makes the game different?"

And I was surprised at how "unprepared" I was with this question. Every game is different, so we know this is a "trick question". The question should be viewed more as "what makes this game special"... And so my rhetoric was "it had role selection like in Puerto Rico, Dice rolling and Set Collection like in Monopoly, Hand Management like in Uno, etc." was contrary to the question... In that I was comparing my game to other games!

So I guess be prepared to state what makes your game "unique". It's one of those "interview" questions everyone seems to get asked. If you designed this game and no other game is similar -- focus on that aspect to describe what is uniquely yours.

Cheers.

ssm
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The Hook

I'll take what quest said and run with it a little.

No matter the product, that is the most common question to get; whether it is for phone cases, toasters, cars, games, or even you as a product in a job interview.

It tends to be a multi-headed question. How much do you know about the industry? How much do you know about your product? What is your selling point?

If you know the company & can do some research, you can tailor your answer to them. But always avoid outright negativity about competition.
When I say outright negativity I mean-
"Why should you get this job?"
"I know X is interviewing as well- he wakes up 10 mins before he has to start, rolls in 3 mins late, the first thing he will do is use the restroom for 15 minutes, and you will be paying him to chat with his friends for about 2 hours a day."
X will probably get it because he is not focused on what you do wrong, and probably won't bring up anyone else.
However, if you know the company and industry, you can use a little negativity, that they probably hold as well. I was involved in product development & rapid prototyping in the past. Idevice cases was a big industry for a number of years, and over 50% of it was one company. People that I made a prototype for would tell me they were nervous about a meeting they were going to have with a different company. I would say something like-
"Well, company A is killing that company, so is company B. So when they ask 'why would someone buy this over the 30 others on the shelf?', part of your answer can always be what you don't like about those cases, which are the same things the company doesn't like, and many more consumers out there."
A lot of times I would hear back that it worked since they knew what they were talking about, the company agreed, and they didn't 'bash' anyone.

I will always say think of your thing (whatever it is) as a product & be objective. Watch Shark Tank, Dragon's Den, or any of the other 'pitch' shows to get a sense of what could be asked and more importantly what types of answers satisfy the investors. It is mostly universal. Unless you have come up with the hands down best thing, they are ultimately investing in you and their future with you.

questccg
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First they must decide to invest in YOU!

ssm wrote:
...It is mostly universal. Unless you have come up with the hands down best thing, they are ultimately investing in you and their future with you.

That's when you can bring up the point about "expandability" and features that could be introduced at a later time, etc.

Once as @ssm says "they invest in YOU!"

Seems only normal that once they manage to get the game off the ground, they will want more information to extend the game's audience and growth. As I have said, everyone's game is different and most games can benefit from an expansion or two... to continue the prosperity of the brand.

So there will come a time, if they buy into your game, that you will no doubt be asked the question: "Do you have any ideas, moving forwards?"

Cheers!

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