Do you have an excellent idea for a game? Of course, you do!
All of those times where you played games and thought, ‘different mechanics could really improve this,’ or ‘what if we had these types of game modes and characters in a different genre?’ lead to some creative video game idea submissions.
And we will show you how to pitch a game idea and how to sell a video game idea, along with all the proper do’s and don’ts. But let’s break it down a little further before we get into details.
What Is The Pitch?
How do some fantastic ideas get through to the cutting room floor? Well, a lot of them start as nothing more than detailed pitches.
A pitch is a simple yet alluring business presentation in which an individual approaches producers and investors for potential funding for that project. It’s your way of selling the very idea of your game to video game producers.
Ideally, a pitch is short in length but packs enough of a punch to attract investors and executives into wanting to take on the project and make your dream a reality.
Can You Pitch A Video Game Idea?
Successful pitches are in nearly every field of entertainment. Although we hear about pitches in the entertainment industry, the gaming industry is no stranger to developers’ fantastic pitches.
Some of our favorite games like Diablo, Grand Theft Auto, and Silent Hill all had great pitches and have become cornerstones of gaming. Video game pitches are much like movie or TV pitches, except with software and design teams.
Will Wright, the creator of The SimCity franchise, says that asking yourself a series of questions during the pitch process will spur you onto better success:
“What got you excited? What is the key thing that’s really motivating you? And then you step back and say, OK, how can I recreate that process in that person’s head? How can I make them see or understand or feel the way I feel about this design direction??”
Can I Get In On This? How to Sell A Video Game Idea
You can. However, it doesn’t mean it’s accessible by any means. While you may feel you have a million-dollar idea, chances are many other people do as well. That’s all well and good, but what about the video game producers?
This makes their job a little more complicated, as now they have to weed through countless ideas and pitches. Many will undoubtedly be lackluster, and some better than others.
Video game executives will need to parse through the good and bad, and who can blame them for not being exactly thrilled to hear another game pitch that’s promised to be the next ‘Grand Theft Auto meets Halo plus Metroid and Zelda rolled into one’?
However, it is still possible. The critical thing to remember is that other people, namely game publishers and executives, will automatically be less impressed with your pitch idea than you are. That’s not a knock on your vision, it’s just that you’ve had this passion project bouncing around in your skull for a while, and they’re hearing it for the first time.
Coming in as an outsider is also another hurdle. If you already held a position at the company, selling a video game pitch would be more comfortable.
In short, yes. But it’s also challenging to do so without some skills and background.
Video Game Publishers
What Does A Video Game Publisher Do?
You may have heard the term video game publisher. Some of the most famous and highest-earning video game publishers in history are Tencent Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Microsoft, Apple, and Activision Blizzard.
So, what does a game publisher do?
Video game publishers are publishing companies that release games. Games published by individual companies are both developed within the company or outside the company.
A good example is Blizzard. They both develop and publish their own games. No one has a monopoly on Diablo, like the creators of the game.
Video game publishers act as financial benefactors, i.e., bankrolling a game to completion and often distributing the games they publish. However, sometimes they’ll employ other companies to distribute games for them.
They also do a lot of legwork for the game studio and game. They will often deal with licensing issues, advertisement campaigns, art design for products, and even work out the proper localization, i.e., translating a game into a different language or language.
So what do game publishers do? Nearly everything aside from developing the game itself in some cases.
Why Do Game Studios Need Publishers?
As you can imagine, having the aid of a great video game publisher can make a huge difference in game development. While people can develop and publish their own games, especially in the age of Steam, having the aid of a video game publisher is crucial to the success of many games.
While on the surface, having access to more funds than some video game studios make in several years, the sheer number of other resources can be a lifesaver. After completing a costly game, the chances are that game studios don’t have the time, energy, or capital to engage in an extensive ad campaign that splashes all over different websites and TV ad spots.
This is where the video game publisher steps up and takes over.
A possible downside to this is that the video game publisher may either advertise your game differently than intended or designs the box art differently. I think it’s a small price to pay for having full funding and assistance when building your dream game.
Do I Need A Publisher For My Game?
Although it’s viable to self-publish these days, consider working with a publisher.
Some pros of self-publishing are pretty apparent right off the bat. You get all the profits, licensing, and control ad campaigns and how the game looks and feels. However, publishers can be an extremely excellent safety net.
Game Pitch Document
What Is A Pitch Document?
A pitch document is what developers send to investors or game publishers outlining their ideas for a game. This is your key to getting your game considered for publishing by anyone. It’s not enough to say, ‘My game is a mix of GTA and Call of Duty.’
It would be best to show them what exactly your game combines two genres, what hardware it runs on, and what the AI will be like. Things that game pitch documents contain:
- Basic Premise
- Singleplayer or Multiplayer
- PC or Consoles
How Do You Write A Pitch For A Video Game?
First thing’s first: you need to know your game. There’s no use presenting a project where you don’t have a good grasp of what your game will accomplish.
Secondly, you are going to want to find your target demographic. Are you aiming to attract RPG gamers or FPS players? Knowing these two necessary pieces of information will dictate how people respond to your pitch document, as well as how streamlined the process will be.
Also, keep in mind that you are asking for a huge favor. You are saying ‘give me money to make this’, which can be a sensitive topic. Keeping that in mind, make your pitch both unique and captivating. No one wants a retread of popular gaming mechanics and genres that they’re incredibly familiar with already.
How To Pitch A Game To A Publisher
These tips should be pretty clear and straightforward. What do you need to succeed at a game pitch meeting?
The best way to communicate with people is by maintaining eye contact. Connecting to people in this simple way can do a lot in your favor. Shifting your eyes down shows a lack of confidence.
Good Public Speaking Skills
I know you probably learned some of these in school, but this is where they actually come in handy. Instead of doing presentations on book reports, you’re going to have to communicate effectively with video game publishers through public speaking.
This means you need to have good eye contact, be expressive without being over the top, and confidently express your ideas. Remember, this is a passion project; show them WHY it’s a passion of yours to create this great game idea.
What Should Be In A Game Pitch?
Although we can conjure up the concept of an elevator pitch when we think of pitches, where you need to convince an executive in 30 seconds to greenlight your game, writing out and presenting game pitches is a bit more nuanced.
Video game pitches need to include all the pertinent information about the game. Basically, it needs to outline the story, characters, gameplay elements, hardware requirements, what market the game is for, and other applicable info.
When you have all of the pertinent information together, the actual pitch takes place. Ideally, you want this to last maybe 15 minutes or so. Remember, it’s all about being clear and concise. People will not want to sit and listen to you blathering on about how talented an art team is.
Here are simple yet extremely effective game pitches for some of the most famous games of all time. These titles defined genres and changed the gaming landscape for decades, much of which we are still feeling today.
Diablo, released in 1996, was the beginning of a good run for Blizzard Entertainment. In this pitch document, written in 1994, outlines the main idea and concepts of the game that would put Blizzard on the map.
A crucial part of Blizzard’s game pitch document outlines what is missing in the then-current mid-1990s regarding computer gaming. If you want to pin down what exactly makes their pitch successful and comprehensive, you could cite any of the detailed outlines of what gameplay will be like, or how environments will look.
It is much simpler than that. In one sentence, in our opinion, seals the deal.
“Diablo fills a neglected niche in the computer game market.”
They then go on to describe the essential elements of what the game will develop into. A medieval fantasy epic that emphasizes hack and slash gameplay in a dark setting.
By outlining what they thought was missing from computer games at the time, they pulled in the interest of game publishers and investors. Cornering a particular market, even a small niche, can pay off dividends in the long run.
And for Blizzard, it clearly has. With the immense popularity of Diablo and its subsequent best-selling sequels, the pitch document and clear and concise aims and goals won the day for the developers.
Diablo is one of the most influential hack and slash, dungeon crawling adventure games in existence and easily one of the most important games in the past 30 years.
Grand Theft Auto
Who doesn’t love Grand Theft Auto?
A controversial yet beloved game that mixes goofy humor with gritty storylines, Grand Theft Auto and its many sequels have been the go-to game for anyone who loves to explore open-world games and cause a little mayhem in the process. It’s often copied but never replicated.
Originally called ‘Race n’ Chase’ in 1995, the pitch document by DMA Design Ltd outlines a ton of helpful info aimed at programmers, designers, and producers. They originally wanted Grand Theft Auto to be an addictive multiplayer game involving car wrecks and crazy stunts.
While that has changed quite a bit, Grand Theft Auto definitely retains some of the original essences that the designers wanted.
In the pitch document, the designer’s outline:
Along with these main pillars of what the game aims to be, they outline what data and code they sought to use, along with how the game would run on different operating systems.
Another key element to the pitch document is the timeline. An excellent timeline, littered with vital milestones for the team, gives publishers and investors a better idea of how quickly a turnaround the team can produce, and how funds are allocated and used. They had an official start date of April 4, 1995, aiming to finish on July 1, 1996. However, the developers never met any of the milestones.
It was eventually released on October 21, 1997, as Grand Theft Auto after a ton of crucial changes. Although plagued with some setbacks, the team put out a product that revolutionized gaming. We may not have recognized it in the late 1990s, but Grand Theft Auto changed what open-world games and story-driven action would mean in the medium.
This pitch document is clear, concise, informative, and well-thought-out. It’s no surprise that it was greenlit. Although they eventually changed the name to Grand Theft Auto (a MUCH better name and game, if you ask us), their original aspects remained a staple in Grand Theft Auto titles to come.
Silent Hill 2
Arguably one of the best survival horror titles ever created, Silent Hill 2 took what the first game did and perfected it. Graphics, gameplay, ambiance: it was all improved upon. In the pitch document itself, the main aspects within are laid out in precise detail.
Capitalizing on the success of the first Silent Hill, the developers had a bit of an advantage over those who eventually created Grand Theft Auto. The first Silent Hill was an incredibly unique survival horror experience that blended grotesque horror with psychological, mind-bending story elements that left the player immersed in a terrifying world.
The second game pits you as James Sunderland, a husband on a quest to the titular haunted town searching for his (seemingly) deceased wife. That sentence in and of itself is a fantastic pitch. Who wouldn’t want to see where that story went?
They emphasize how psychological horror will take the reins, putting the first game’s more bloody aspects on the back burner. This resulted in dark, looming, and haunting landscapes and set pieces that influenced the genre of psychological horror.
In regards to combat, the developers outright say that combat mirrors its then contemporary, Resident Evil. They differentiate it from Capcom’s title by changing the pacing of the game.
In Silent Hill 2, you could go for an extended period without ever encountering an enemy. In Resident Evil, especially the more recent titles, enemies are always right around the corner. Both concepts are terrifying in their own way.