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Justin Gary
Justin Gary's picture
Joined: 07/20/2015

Hello BGDF!

I am happy to be a new member of this community. I have been designing and publishing games for over a decade, including Ascension, Solforge, the World of Warcraft miniatures game, the Vs. System Trading Card Game, and my newest game releasing at Gencon next week, Bad Beets.

I will be doing a Reddit AMA this Friday at 1PM Pacific Time. What questions would you most want answered around game design, development, production, running a game company, etc.? If the questions are more involved than I can get to there, I'll work on a longer response and post a link on my twitter @Justin_Gary

I look forward to answering some of your questions and to being a part of this community

-Justin Gary
CEO Stone Blade Entertainment

Joined: 10/13/2011
Welcome Justin!

Welcome to the forum!

What are your thoughts on the differences between design and publishing? Some of the most common questions I see on the forum pertain to prototyping, artwork and pitching the design to publishers.

As a designer, what were the things that publishers liked/disliked in your design, presentation etc.

As a publisher, what were the things that you liked/disliked in what was presented by designers?

Thanks for shaing your insights!

chris_mancini's picture
Joined: 05/01/2015
Welcome Justin! It's

Welcome Justin! It's fantastic to have such accomplished people in this community!

I'm sure you'll have plenty of questions come your way; mine would mostly revolve around how to approach publishers as an unknown designer with a new game, are there particular times of year or cons which publishers are actively looking for new games, how much playtest feedback/documentation is required...and anything else particularly important in successfully contacting, pitching and working with a publisher to get a game out there.

Thanks and welcome once again...I'm sure this community will make the most of your expertise!

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
A question ... for you!

Hello Justin,

When I was dealing with Publishers (now going to self-publish) about my latest Work-In-Progress (WIP) "Tradewars - Homeworld", I was trying to sell my game as being a game built around three (3) other games:

  1. Dominion: because it is a Deck-Building Game (DBG)
  2. San Juan: because it has distinct roles players may choose
  3. Magic: because the combat system evolved from it

My question is: What should I respond to people (mainly publishers) who say: "This is just another Deck-Builder..."

Oddly it is NOT like any other DBG and it is inspired from three (3) other games which are very popular and has interesting mechanics.

I can say things like: "Well game X is just a card game" or "Game Y is yet another board game"???

I'd like to know what your take on it would be...


Justin Gary
Justin Gary's picture
Joined: 07/20/2015

Since all of these questions revolve around publishing, I will just start by giving a few tips:

1. Pitching publishers at conventions is a good idea. Gencon this week is a great opportunity. Often there are people there that can review your games or at least who can connect you to people who can. It is far harder to say no to someone in person than over email.

2. Be respectful! Every publisher has a ton of demands on their time and gets a ton of game pitches. Be respectful and kind even if they don't have a chance to review your game. Ask for contact info and be ready to follow up after the show. Offer to send a copy of the game and rules for them to review.

3. Have a good elevator pitch. Your game idea should be easy to communicate by referencing something they know and something original (e.g. its a deckbuilding game with magic combat and plays in 30 minutes). Nice looking art / prototypes can help a lot too but isn't necessary.

4. Be able to explain the core of your game in 15 minutes or less (really should be 5 minutes)- Publishers are busy and they will judge your game in the first 5-15 minutes. If you can't get the core game loop across in 15 minutes, you will not sell your game. This doesn't mean that the game has to be playable in 15 minutes, just that it can be explained and understood.

5. Develop relationships and add value- a lot of times the best way to get in front of publishers is to volunteer. Contribute value by helping out at conventions, doing QA testing, contributing articles and community forum posts, etc. Don't expect payment or immediate return- be kind, clearly communicate, exceed expectations, and be overall great to work with. Publishers will be FAR more likely to listen to your game pitch and help you get it to a purchasable point if they like you and you already help them.

6. Take feedback- if a publisher gives you feedback- don't argue with them! I see this all the time and I can't believe how much it happens. Take the feedback, say thank you, and ask them if they would be willing to review the game again if you addressed some of the issues. Everyone loves to have their opinion respected, and publishers will be more likely to take your game if they feel a sense of ownership and contribution to the final result.

Hope that is helpful!


chris_mancini's picture
Joined: 05/01/2015
One more question...

Thanks Justin very helpful! I appreciate you coming back to this thread, as the AMA was not surprisingly overwhelmed by questions about your huge games already out there.

I would love to get your thoughts on how we designers can "prove" our game to publishers...fresh theme and a solid 30-second pitch is great, but once we hook someone with that, how can we give them confidence that the game works as described? More importantly, what does a publisher want to hear or see before taking a chance on it? Is it a case of trusting the designer and then testing for themselves (if interested enough) or is there an expectation of "proof" before investing time and energy into an unknown designer's game?

I have a game of my own in personal testing, but the boxes of fresh theme, familiar mechanics with unique thematic twists and good old fashioned fun are all firmly checked...not in time for GenCon but close to presentable.

I imagine each case is unique, but any light you can shed on the initial review process would be great!

Justin Gary
Justin Gary's picture
Joined: 07/20/2015
One more answer :)

There is no "proving" your design. Certainly, if you have successfully sold your game or done crowdfunding, that will have a huge impact on a publisher's interest, but I'm assuming very few people are in that position.

Your job as a designer is to get the publisher to be willing to try your game and to be open to working with you. After that, it will come down to whether they like the game after playing it and if it fits in their game portfolio.

A lot of those factors are out of your control, and I know that can feel frustrating, but if you keep following the steps above and keep improving your games, at some point you will be able to publish.

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