Skip to Content

Quality of prototype when showing a publisher

17 replies [Last post]
Andy Jackson
Andy Jackson's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/09/2017

Hi all,

I'm wondering what the appropriate standards are when showing a game to a publisher.

Is it acceptable (or even expected?) to have cards printed out in a tidy and logical format which came from excel. No frills, no art, graphics, cool fonts etc. As long as the cards are well formatted, easy to understand and functional is this enough?

Likewise with a board? Is something printed out onto a few pieces of colour cardboard (and stuck together) with a grid overlay and squares of green and blue ok?

Similarly hotch-potch pieces instead of well produced meeples and figures - are they ok as long as they do the job even if they look a bit naff?

I want to be professional and not sure what state publishers are used to seeing stuff in when it comes to the pitch.

Many thanks

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
It's human reactions

Generally speaking, I try to computerize everything when it comes to prototypes that are to be submitted to Publishers. And to do this, I use a service such as "The Game Crafter" (TGC). TGC is great because they have a very simple interface with many options to produce usually what is required to make a game.

In the event that some parts or an essential component is missing, well then I ship it to my home and add whatever is missing before shipping it back to a Publisher (whichever I may want to pitch the game to).

But remember when communicating with a Publisher, the first e-mail is an introductory one with a brief description of the game, how many players, how long it is to play, etc. (A Sell Sheet basically). Maybe a graphic of your game on a table, etc. If you have some card artwork, you should include those to give the Publisher an idea of what the game could look like.

Or you can wait to send them your "semi-professional" prototype made by a service such as TGC. As I said earlier, I typically will computerize everything and make Black & White (& Gray) card templates to be functional for the game's purposes... But I probably won't go into color details unless it's something more or less simple such as "cardbacks".

But generally speaking, I try to have something "functional" over "artsy".

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Again it's human reactions

I just re-read your OP and I'm not sure I wasn't very clear...

When I say I do "Black & White" templates... Well they are templates. I look to layout the cards and the information in the most presentable fashion.

That doesn't mean that the Publisher's Graphic Designer will layout the cards in the same way. Using color and images, he/she may elect to make a completely different card layout... And I'm fine with that.

But yeah don't just write text with an Arial Font and that's all that is on your cards... Nobody is going to be EXCITED to see that. Like I said, "Human Reactions"; decide if YOU received a BOX with whatever you plan to send ... and you get this box... Will it EXCITE you???

If the answer is NOT REALLY... Well spend more time creating a nicer but still a template for your cards. Use a service like "The Game Crafter" and a add professional looking meeples/components. Spend that $20 to have something a bit nicer than just cards that you've written on...

I think this message is more clear about HOW "I" would present something to a Publisher. So maybe the rules will be in a not too nice MS-Word document that I upload to TGC...

But I'm 100% positive some people just send stuff in an Arial Font with only writing. It probably makes it HARDER to be "excited" about the game than if you can a more "semi-professional" looking prototype.

Cheers!

Note: If it costs you $20 per Publisher and you send off the game to 10 Publishers, that's $200 + Shipping. It's not too pricey and it can definitely make the difference when you pitch and how they react.

It's a small investment... But it shows you went a bit further in refining what it is you want to pitch. Extra effort could result in a better reaction and perhaps even more interest.

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Here's an older, unusable template B&W

I spent time finding Icons, choosing appropriate Fonts, making it PRESENTABLE and usually leaving a large WHITE "area" for Illustrations or Renderings, etc.

That should give you a SAMPLE of what I mean by B&W templates...

Cheers!

Andy Jackson
Andy Jackson's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/09/2017
budget considerations

Thanks for this. I'll definitely look into a game crafter option.
I haven't got much of a budget right now but do have access to some colour printing on card so if I can make something which looks 'well made at home' then this would definitely be preferable. I very much take your point about wanting to look professional though and evoke an excited response.
I guess I just want to know if I'll be laughed out the room / not considered seriously if I turn up at a pitch with a homemade game.

Also my game will use a lot of meeples. The board is scattered with 50+ sheep which so far I've made out of balled up tissue paper. The response from my friends in playtesting has been great. But I wonder if a potential publisher would see this as a cute/functional representation of what would need to be a meeple in the end product, and be ok with it. Again producing a game with so many meeples as (well as cards and board) would stretch my budget.

Many thanks

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
$0,06 cents each

https://www.thegamecrafter.com/parts/wink-22mm-opaque-white

Can't get any LESS expensive than this from "The Game Crafter".

Best.

McTeddy
Offline
Joined: 11/19/2012
I've never had any issues

I've never had any issues with publishers expecting top quality prototypes, and I have actively had resistance to too much quality. Publishers want to see if what you've created can be modified to be what they need.

Nearly every project I've had serious talks with publishers about has been created from dollar store nicknacks. I'm not talking small publishers either.

The important things for your prototype:

- Does it FEEL right?
Make the cards feel like cards. Usually I use card sleeves or stuck on labels with standard playing cards. The important thing is that they shuffle well.

Boards need to be sturdy enough to survive the trip, Tokens need to be easy to pick up, I love bath stones for any "meeple" requirements because they look good and feel good.

We're not talking about kickstarter here. Publishers will see their own ideas for components. As long as your component isn't bad enough that it interferes with play... you're fine.

- Look of the Cards
Logical format is okay... but you probably want to go one step further. You want just enough to kick start their imagination.

A good font and a basic nandeck card set can give people a clear idea of the format you envision and proves that the information can be organized stylishly on a standard card.

I also like to include a few "Style" cards that include clip art, googled arts and a decently fancy format to again get the creative juices flowing. Let them see THEIR final product.

I've heard of many cases where publisher's passed on a game because it was "Too finished". They didn't see that it could be modified into what they want, or that it would requiring throwing away much of the designers hard work.

- - -

My advice, don't waste the money on gamecrafter because its expensive and unnecessary if you're going the publisher route.

You need to remember that there is the potential you'll need to submit to multiple companies and the price of manufactured copies will add up fast.

You aren't going to make big moolah from most published works. Don't invest more than you need to.

polyobsessive
polyobsessive's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/11/2015
Neatish, not fancy

The games I have pitched so far have all been based on cards made by printing on basic 160gsm card stock, cut to size, and shoved into opaque backed card sleeves, meaning that where necessary I can differentiate card decks by using different coloured backs on the sleeves.

From an artwork point of view, I mostly use images from game-icons.net, which look neat, and usually do what I need.

Other components I use are just generic wooden cubes, meeples, dice, etc. Nothing fancy.

To date I have only pitched a few games to a few publishers (only a couple signed so far) but all those I have talked to seemed happy with the state of the prototypes I showed them.

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Investing versus wasting

McTeddy wrote:
...My advice, don't waste the money on gamecrafter because its expensive and unnecessary if you're going the publisher route.

You need to remember that there is the potential you'll need to submit to multiple companies and the price of manufactured copies will add up fast.

You aren't going to make big moolah from most published works. Don't invest more than you need to.

Which is EXACTLY why I recommend USING "The Game Crafter"! If you need to make multiple copies (like 5 or so), are you going to waste the time in printing, cutting and trying to get replacement components for all those samples... Or do you prefer to click a BUTTON and have those samples directly shipped to Publishers???

Yeah going this route might cost between $100-$200 USD. But IF I can make $5,000 for licensing my game idea, I think the money invested is worth the effort IF I get a Publishing deal.

Plus it cost me no extra effort to submit to 1 or 5 publishers. Only the cost to produce and ship the prototype.

I personally "don't have the time to print and CUT cards". I've got 100 Blank TGC cards I bought from them and I have card sleeves. Early prototypes, I just use a whiteboard marker and write on those. The NEXT step is to computerize all of the cards and player boards, so they can be DIRECTLY made by TGC.

That's why I don't waste time doing DIY games anymore.

But hey, everyone has a different approach. I consider the $100-$200 an INVESTMENT into what it is I am presenting. Others feel more manual efforts are worth their time and effort, and that's their prerogative.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Offline
Joined: 02/07/2011
Personal Guidelines

Personally, I do not spend money on artwork for prototypes. I use the paint.net tool and game-icons.net website almost exclusively, and/or I draw my own art. If a project is picked up by a publisher, chances are the artwork (or even the theme of the game) will be completely changed anyway.

I will spend money on components, although like McTeddy I do have a shelf full of dollar-store finds that are extremely useful. If a design I've made has evolved past initial playtesting phases (and not all of them do), then they've graduated from sharpie-on-blank-card-in-a-sleeve, and deserve some legit treatment.

I often reward myself by investing in printed cards from The Game Crafter. They help me maintain my enthusiasm and confidence in my own designs while pitching them or taking them out to public events and meetings. Professional-looking components will also attract the general/casual public for playtesting much easier than black-and-white cards-in-sleeves. A step up in production quality makes it easier for the average person to say yes to a playtest.

I Will Never Gr...
I Will Never Grow Up Gaming's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/23/2015
Keep it simple

Keep it simple.

Well laid out and formatted cards, using stock images and icons that loosely convey your proposed/suggested theme. Even black and white cards printed on card stock in sleeves is perfectly acceptable.

Simple components (pawns, cubes, dice, etc) that you can purchase/create easily and cheap.

The vast majority of the time, especially for a larger publisher, they don't want to be bogged down by flashy components and artwork as it will draw away from the game play and their potential vision for the theme or art direction.

That, and it keeps it super cheap (though potentially time consuming) to send out several copies to prospective, interested, publishers (never send a prototype to a publisher who does not explicitly ask for one btw).

While I love services like The Game Crafter and PrintPlayGames, they get expensive really fast and are not at all necessary in this stage.

Keep it simple. Keep it cheap. Convey your game play above all else. Suggest or imply theme(s) but realize that many publishers will adjust your game to fit their vision when they sign your game.

Jay103
Jay103's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/23/2018
questccg

questccg wrote:
https://www.thegamecrafter.com/parts/wink-22mm-opaque-white

Can't get any LESS expensive than this from "The Game Crafter".

Best.


Well, actually you can just buy "bingo chips" in bulk online :)

https://www.amazon.com/1000-pack-Bingo-Activities-Royal-Supplies/dp/B077...

Opaque are under $0.02 per chip, and translucent are like a penny each.

However, I'll note that even TCG has them for under $0.02 per chip when you buy a lot. Nobody's buying 3 chips for prototyping purposes :)

Andy Jackson
Andy Jackson's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/09/2017
When to Show and When to Send Prototypes

Hi all,

Thanks for the feedback - its really good to hear the variation in how its done and get a sense of expectations from publishers.

I've still a way to go yet with play-testing but will be thinking of cost effective ways to manage this and make sure my pitch is functional first but good enough looking to get people excited.

As a follow on question at what point would you usually send a copy of a game to a publisher?
After approaching them via e-mail with info and sell-sheet, I'd envisaged attending a face to face where they would see the prototype I turn up with. If they were interested I'd leave it with them for playtesting etc. Is this not how it works? Will I need to send out prototypes to publishers before meeting them in person?

Thanks!

I Will Never Gr...
I Will Never Grow Up Gaming's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/23/2015
The paths are many!

Andy Jackson wrote:

As a follow on question at what point would you usually send a copy of a game to a publisher?

When the publisher asks for one. ;)

Quote:

After approaching them via e-mail with info and sell-sheet, I'd envisaged attending a face to face where they would see the prototype I turn up with. If they were interested I'd leave it with them for playtesting etc. Is this not how it works? Will I need to send out prototypes to publishers before meeting them in person?

It varies from publisher to publisher and even from one pitch to another.

All of the big publishers will attend the major conventions where you can arrange to meet with them to pitch your game. Some may ask for a prototype then and there, others may just take a sell sheet and/or rules and notes with them and you follow up later.

There are also publisher "speed dating" events where you have a set amount of time scheduled to pitch to publishers A-Z in a speed dating type of environment and they will take notes during the pitch, after which if they are interested they will let you know.

All this to say - there is no one way to go about pitching to a publisher and it's best to contact those who are;
a) looking for new games
b) looking for games such as yours
c) may fit your expectations of a publisher as well.

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
About Publishers...

I don't have that much SUPER experience with Publishers. I can say that I have dealt with FOUR (4) Publishers for "TradeWorlds". I won't state any names cause that could damage their reputation even if what I am saying is indeed truthful.

1. The first publisher I had submitted the game ... took ALMOST one (1) year to tell me that they would not publish the game. Communication was at best once every MONTH (if that). It was like pulling teeth ... and it seems like it took them a LONG time to figure out that they would not publish it.

2. The next publisher was a large and well known publisher. I spoke with the owner and while he LIKED the game, his CO-WORKERS seemed to react differently. I kind of blew it when he asked me what was "different" about the game... I guess it was not meant to be. But we sent e-mails back and forth for about 2 weeks. And they did not waste my time... They were very polite and just the way the CEO felt and his TEAM was at odds... Couldn't seal the deal.

3. Publisher number three was because my Developer had some dealings with them ... In doing some Blind Playtesting. And I figured might as well give it a TRY. My game didn't fit well into their criteria for games. I again dealt with the owner... He was very polite (and even supported our Kickstarter) and explained that although their games do have direct conflict, they weren't interested in games with "Player Elimination". And there were a few other reasons (Player Count, concerns with Market Saturation, etc). But again all the decision making done in a couple of weeks. Great professionalism.

4. My Publisher ... and this was because AGAIN my Developer had done some development and design for "Outer Limit Games, LLC". And I did my homework to see what kind of games they wanted to publish... It turned out that they were looking for Science-Fiction (SciFi) games and my Space Trading game fit exactly into what it is they were looking to publish. We sent e-mails back and forth for a week or so and then they drafted a contract which I reviewed and amended and we got to signing a deal maybe within the month. They've been super in developing the game into its present form (with better graphic design, managing the Kickstarter, handling the deal making with Chinese Manufacturers, etc.)

But everything that I did was ONLINE and via E-MAIL. I live way up in Canada... (Montreal to be precise) And I've learned that products created in the USA make it into the Canadian Market... And not the other way around. So I felt if I was going to be successful, I would need a USA company to handle the publishing of my game.

So don't give up on your first (1st) try. Be courteous and deal with one party (Publisher) at a time... Some say you can deal with multiple people at the same time... I don't "advocate" this. I feel TRY one Publisher and see what their response is. Each Publisher you deal with, you will improve and hone your "pitch skills". You'll know some of the questions and what to expect as answers to them. I personally don't like to PRESSURE people into making decisions... So as you see I waited a FULL YEAR with Publisher #1. After all the time, I felt that for sure they would have wanted to publish the game... But no such luck.

Like I said, Publisher #3 backed our "Kickstarter"... He personally bought a copy of the game and might have swayed some backers in our general direction too! So that was cool too...!

I go to local cons, so I don't expect to meet Publisher from the USA. And I garner local feedback too. To see how the game has matured and is solid. But I don't go to cons for "Speed Dating" or meeting up with Publishers at a con. To me neither of these venues seem like a REAL way to sign a game. People need some time to think and discuss things. So the normal one to two week period is perfectly acceptable.

In person makes it very hard. You put pressure on the Publisher and he/she may say: "We're interested but we need to discuss it further." or "We like the game, we need to see if it's a good fit", etc. So I would not advocate going to cons to pitch games. (Maybe I am wrong about this... but generally people are at a con to take in the venue... not make deals in the open)... But that's just what I think, others may feel differently and say that this is a valid way to pitch a game.

Mostly things are about "common sense". I would still like to deal with Publisher #2 or #3 because they are honest and see how the game fits within their catalogue. Publisher #2 team is something worthwhile pitching to... Now that I know about the "disconnect"... I would be better prepared to discuss future games with them (team not just the CEO).

Just relaying some of my own personal experience and maybe it might be able to help you!

Cheers.

Andy Jackson
Andy Jackson's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/09/2017
I wonder . . .

Thanks again for the input and sharing. I'm in UK so wondering if things are equally diverse here. Also wondering if I'll be able to break the USA, German markets and others if I end up with a UK publisher.
The ways certainly do seem to be many...

polyobsessive
polyobsessive's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/11/2015
Hello from a fellow UKian!

Andy Jackson wrote:
Thanks again for the input and sharing. I'm in UK so wondering if things are equally diverse here. Also wondering if I'll be able to break the USA, German markets and others if I end up with a UK publisher.
The ways certainly do seem to be many...

I'm in the UK and most of the publishers I've interacted with are UK-based, though I also talked to a bunch of USian and Mainland-European publishers at the speed dating at this year's UKGE. Not one of them have even raised an eyebrow at my prototypes being home made and a bit crappy.

Incidentally, UK Games Expo is becoming better every year for meeting publishers from all round the world, plus most UK publishers who might sign your games also have international reach, so don't worry about that side of things.

Andy Jackson
Andy Jackson's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/09/2017
Music to my ears

That's great to hear thanks.

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut