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What I learned at GenCon 2015 - Pitching and Promoting

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Joined: 10/13/2011

GenCon 2015 was a great time and I had the chance to sit in on a panel of published designers, industry insiders, etc. that spoke to us about how to properly pitch and promote your designs. So for the benefit of all who could not attend, and in no particular order, here we go...

1) Know your publisher. If you are pitching your new card game to a publisher that only publishes role playing games, you may find it very difficult to convince them that your card game design is worth the risk.

2) You need several versions of your pitch for prospective publishers that are well rehearsed and ready to go.

The 60 second version (or elevator pitch). In short, you have 60 seconds to grab their attention with a question, statement, tagline or idea that will pique their interest in your design. The example give by the panel was for the movie "The Iron Giant"; according to the panel, the pitch for this movie started with the question "What if a weapon had a soul?"

The 10 minute version. Same as the 60 second version, but with additional details about what makes your game special, unique, fun, and attractive to potential buyers. This may include a brief demonstration of the game. Focus this demo on the unique elements.

The 30 minute version. The Game God has smiled upon you and a publisher actually gives you 30 minutes or more to demo your game. Same as the 10 minute version, but with more time spent on game play and discussion about possible changes.

3) Demo tips - the demo is NOT the time to go over every rule of the game. In all honesty, the publisher doesn't care how to play; they care that the game has something unique that they can market and sell for a profit. As such, it is perfectly acceptable to demo the game from a point halfway through the game and it is acceptable to skip over phases that are very simple or routine so that you can focus on the unique parts

4) Leave nothing to chance in the demo. Every deck, roll and placement of pieces should be pre-determined to illustrate the unique parts of your game. Don't even allow for the possibility that the publisher could get a bad draw of cards or that the most exciting element of the game doesn't happen.

5) Be positive. A publisher will never be more excited about your game than you are. In addition, don't speak negatively of other games. If the publisher feels your game is similar to another game on the market, be ready to call attention to the things that make your game unique

6) Have some business cards printed. They are relatively cheap and it gives the publisher something physical to keep. Speaking from personal experience, I am completely exhausted after GenCon, but in my pocket I have business cards for 2 games and 3 publishers so I will be able to find their products again easily

7) Have multiple designs ready to demo (4 or 5 would not be unreasonable). Sometimes a publisher will know in 60 seconds that they don't want your design. Be ready to show them something different since you already have them talking to you.

8) If the publisher, doesn't have time to speak to you, try to get them to commit to a time in the future and make sure you follow up later to confirm the time. Publishers are very busy and "I don't have time to talk" is NOT the same thing as "I don't want to see your design"

9) The prototype should be good enough to give the publishers a sense of the overall experience of playing the game. Custom artwork is not needed, but some kind of free clipart or graphics will certainly help. In addition, it helps to have cards laid out and formatted if possible.

10) Be ready to discuss changes to the game. The example the panel gave was artwork. If your 100 card deck requires 100 unique pieces of art, the publisher will probably ask if any of the cards can use the same artwork. Again, from personal experience at the con, I spoke to a fellow designer who had a game that featured an electronic timer. 2 publishers said the timer would be very expensive to include and a table full of playtesters agreed that a variation of the game rules that did not require the time would be perfectly acceptable. Last I knew, the designer was holding onto the timer with the feeling that it was too important to give up.

11) Promote yourself shamelessly; shake hands, talk up your game, hand out business cards, and keep a positive outlook. Even if the last 10 publishers passed on your game, you should not take the rejection personally. Meet the next publisher with as much enthusiasm as you met the first.

12) Conventions, seminars, and panel discussions are great places to meet potential publishers. Attend as many as you can!

13) With regard to kickstarting games, promotion of the game online and in person must begin long before the kickstarter begins. If you don't create a website, facebook page, twitter, etc. until the night before the kickstarter launches, you are unlikely to have enough media presence to fund.

14) Fund other projects. Even if you can only help support other designers with a few dollars, showing that you help support the efforts of other designers may help you fund your own projects in the future.

Well that is all I have - I hope this helps!

Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
Thats alot of knowlege gained

Thats alot of knowlege gained from one go. I wish I would have learned how to protote my games earlier in my career. If I had I am sure I would have more tiltes to my credit.

chris_mancini's picture
Joined: 05/01/2015
Awesome stuff OB...thanks for

Awesome stuff OB...thanks for sharing! I'll be putting these points into action very soon, my friend!

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
league of Gamemakers

Solid, timeless tips. If you're not already a member I suggest pitching that as a post for the League of Gamemakers.

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