The Iterative Collective is both an indie games incubator and a publisher, but what does…
You did it! You have a great concept for a game. (Congratulations!) You could be still in the planning phases, or maybe it’s getting close to being finished, but either way, you’re ready to show off your idea. You’d like to approach publishers and let them to see all your planning and hard work. How do you get them to give you a shot? In a perfect world, you’d hand over your whole design document or send them the full game and they’d spend hours appreciating every little detail you implemented and each drop of blood, sweat, and tears you spilled on those late nights of development and intense bug-squashing sessions. But, of course, that’s not reality, and you’re not the only one reaching out to folks, so you need to present your work in a way that catches a publisher’s attention fast. You need something clear, succinct, and organized that gives them the broad strokes and really sells your concept in as eye-catching a way as possible.
That’s where pitch decks come in.
What is a pitch deck, exactly? If making one seems intimidating, worry not! I have a secret.
That’s right. Pitch decks, game decks, slide decks–whatever you want to call them–are more or less just PowerPoint presentations spruced up a bit. They’re totally easy and approachable, and, while doing the research and organizing the information you need might take some time, the actual making of the pitch deck is more or less a breeze. Here, I’ll tell you what you should be sure to include and I’ll go over each section in detail. In part two, we’ll discuss how to present it all.
Building Your Pitch Deck
Understand that you don’t need fancy software. You can use fancy software, of course. There are many out there that will take your money, but if you are ok making an account with their respective companies, Powerpoint and Google Slides are free, both of which really have everything you need to make a solid pitch deck, I promise! If you prefer a similar program out there that does basically the same thing, it’s likely just as good. Go for it! Just don’t let the idea that making a deck is difficult, inaccessible, or is going to cost you money be the thing that holds you back from getting started, because you can do it totally for free with software you’re probably already very familiar with.
Organize Your Information. Before you start making things look good in your slides, you need to actually know what’s going on them. How would you explain your game to someone?
- Start with an elevator pitch (the coolest parts in one short sentence) to make your game sound fun and appealing. (Which it is, right? Easy!) What you’re looking for with this is to give whoever you’re pitching to an immediate understanding of your product. They don’t need the small details yet, just the broad sweeps. (As an example, this game’s deck might have a line in there like “If Doom was a rhythm game.” Short, to the point, and instantly understandable to folks who aren’t familiar with your project.)
- Write down the key information and important features of your game. The main word here is key. I know you know this project inside and out and love every little action, ability, and power-up you’ve included, but for your pitch deck, remember, we’re focusing on the broad sweeps of the gameplay, the things that will catch someone’s eye and make them want more. Don’t bog them down in minute detail!
- Outline what makes your game stand out. What will players be most excited about? What’s the thing that makes your game special and will have folks choosing it over similar titles? These are sometimes referred to as USPs or unique selling points; be sure to show them off.
- Research your competition. What games are similar to yours? Frame it this way: “Players who like games X, Y, and Z are likely to like my game too.” This information is important to publishers as it gives them an even better understanding of your project and its intended audience, and it can help them understand how your game fits into its genre as well as its earning potential.
Get back to the basics. Now that you’ve got all the broad stuff more or less covered, take a step back and include some of the specifics. You need to be sure publishers know things like the developer (that’s you!), the game’s title, release date (TBA is ok, but you should have some sort of timeline to communicate and an area to aim for, like Q3 of next year, for instance), what platforms you’re aiming to release on, any socials you might have if you’re already curating an audience for the game, and any other relevant basic info like that.
Talk about yourself. It’s most people’s least favorite thing to do, but it can’t be avoided. You need the publisher to have faith in your ability to follow through on your project, so you need to be sure to introduce yourself and your team (if you have one) and include any info you might think is useful to show your qualifications for and dedication to making this game. You don’t need your whole CV on there, but how many years you’ve been working on games, what your abilities are, other projects you’ve been a part of, or, if this is your first project, how seriously you’re taking it and how you are prioritizing its completion are all ok to include, but remember, be succinct. They can ask further questions if needed.
Crunch numbers. This part is always really eye opening, and it’s important to be honest. Let publishers know about the current state of the game and what resources you’ll need to complete it, particularly in regards to budget and timeline. This is also where you can include a bit of a dev backlog if you have it. How did you complete the work you’ve done so far? How long did it take and what did it cost? This all helps the publisher get a good idea about whether this is a good project to invest in and to what level they’d like to contribute.
Think about marketing. Hey, wait, marketing is the publisher’s job, right? Sure! But you still want a say in things, don’t you? Let the publisher know about your target audience, the way you’d like to bring the game’s best features to these players, and any ideas you may have about ways the game should be promoted. If you have strong feelings on that last one especially, it’s important to communicate it so that you and the publisher are on the same page from the start.
Assess the risks. If you’ve ever taken a business class, you know about SWOT. You’ll need to do a little bit of that in your pitch deck too. There are always risks in business and in development in general, so don’t think you’re immune. Honestly consider the things that could impede your game’s development—both internal and external factors—and any other issues you think could possibly serve as roadblocks to the successful completion and sale of your game. Then, be sure to communicate how you’ll face each of these challenges to overcome them should they arise. This shows great planning and foresight on your end, and being honest about possible setbacks puts you and the publisher in a place where you’re prepared to meet these detours head on.
Know what to ask for. What are you looking for? Financial investment? Marketing? QA testing? Help with porting and localization? Post-launch support? Community management? All of it? Be sure you know exactly what you need and ask for the right kind of help.
And a final note before we move onto part two is this: Remember that honesty is key in every step of pitch deck creation. You are showing off your take on gameplay, genre, and personal style and asking publishers if your work fits within their lineup. You’re not in a competition to prove that your game is the best game ever. You want a publisher to be not only interested in your work but capable of doing the best work for you and your game, so again, be honest. Don’t over-inflate or misrepresent your project. It will only lead to mismatched teams and unaligned goals (and that’s if the publisher doesn’t see through the misrepresentations outright). Publishers work with all sorts of games at many stages of development and have seen nearly everything. Don’t think you’ll scare them off. Instead, show them that you respect their time and will be an honest and reliable partner. They’ll pay you back by letting you know whether they can do your game justice and whether a partnership is feasible, worthwhile, and beneficial to you both.
Check out part two to see how to put all this together in your deck!
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