Videogame Developer edition.
There is an art to creating materials that accurately represent your game while simultaneously creating excitement for the opportunity itself. When it comes to the initial Pitch Deck; it needs to be simple, short, high-level, visually striking and touch on core tenets every Publisher is looking for. From my experience seeing hundreds of Pitch Decks and what works, it’s always best to send over an “Executive Summary” pitch deck first; a very high level and brief snapshot of the opportunity.
The following list can be used to craft a professional and engaging initial Pitch Deck that will excite the Right Partners. You can use it as a Template for future opportunities when shopping for potential partners. Keep in mind this is an initial Pitch Deck, and for the Publishers that are interested in your project, there is an Extended Pitch Deck I would recommend sending over after. Interwoven through the initial pitch deck should be the fundamentals of Engaging, Simple, Short.
- Engaging. The goal is to keep a potential partner committed to reading through and understanding the project at a high-level. The first step towards achieving this is coating the deck in beautiful artwork (though I am mentioning it first, this step often comes last after the structure and content are completed). Each slide should be decorated in the screenshots, art, colors, characters, vibe, and feel of your game. Take a look at The Flame in the Flood and Bear Breakfast for excellent examples of keeping readers visually engaged (credit to Eva Karr at GLITCH).
The Deck should be stunning through and through. It is not the most important factor, but the maxim I want to put forward is “Don’t give the right Publishers any reason to say no.” You want to get as close to that Maxim as possible, and don’t leave any stones unturned. Humans are wired to give attention to visually striking stimuli — it’s the reason a profuse amount of money is poured into making games look gorgeous.
An ugly deck can have a Publisher exit out of the presentation before parsing through the entire opportunity. The pitch deck can include Screenshots & GIFs but don’t embed gameplay videos within. Instead add Links into the Pitch Deck to route the audience to Youtube, Vimeo or another video streaming service.
Make sure to keep the font type and size consistent throughout the deck. Good rule of thumb is to have a Heading for each slide, and each slide should contain between 1 to 3 bullet points. Each bullet point being no more than 5 to 10 words. Proofread and free the deck of any grammatical errors before sharing. Keep it professional and within good-taste.
- Simple. Trim down the language and refrain from using jargon or heavy technical terms (unless it’s absolutely necessary — like stating whether it’s F2P or Premium). The easier the Pitch is to understand, the faster the Publisher will grasp the opportunity and discern if it’s a fit.
The more complicated it is, the longer it will take Publishers to figure out, and it could lead to unnecessary phone calls or second/third pitches. It could lead to mixed internal consensus as it’s not clear what the opportunity is and multiple interpretations being discussed of what the actual opportunity is. I have seen Publishers pass on projects they were otherwise interested in because they couldn’t fully grasp the concept or the perceived end outcome.
- Short. At any time, Publishers can be talking to dozens of Developers at once. They will be at different stages with these Developers; First Pitch, Follow Up Pitches, MNDA, Exploration and Discovery, Due Diligence, Term Sheet, Long Form Contract, Negotiation, Signing, Call, Production Calls, etc. At the same time, there will be dozens of other Developers trying to get their foot in the door to get their game signed. With some Publishers, the person you are speaking to wears many hats and has a long laundry list of responsibilities and hats they wear. They only have so much time to look over an opportunity and decide whether it should go into the pipeline.
Publishers can see anywhere from 500 to 2000+ pitches in a calendar year. Some of these developers are seasoned in this process and know exactly what to do — you need to find a way to be ahead of the curve. Publishers have limited time to look through these decks. A Publisher will first skim your deck for 30 seconds before deciding to spend 3 to 5 minutes reading through it. It’s all they need to surmise this game is worth their time to explore. Key word being explore. For those of you that haven’t been through this process, it’s multi-layered and takes about 4 to 6 months (and I’ve seen up to 1.5 years). The exploration phase is near the beginning.
The initial Pitch Deck should not top 15 slides (and I am recommending 10 here). The goal is to give viewers a high-level overview of your product and not go into details. They will ask for those details if they are interested. The initial Pitch Deck is a snapshot of the opportunity shared with your Target Partners to see whose interested. If they’re interested, they will ask for more details, and you can have an extended Pitch Deck ready to share.
Pitch Deck Template
1. [First Slide] Amazing Piece of Artwork from your Game. This slide should include the Company Name & Game Name. The Date “November 2020” can be added below in an optional capacity as it helps you and potential partners keep track of the latest version. Keep in mind you will most likely be revising the Pitch Deck as you go along, and should keep track of the version numbers.
2. [Second Slide] Game Overview. This is a brief description of what your game is. You can include two or three sentences that describe your game. Don’t overload with information. This is meant to be high level. They will ask for more information down the road if interested.
3. [Third Slide] Product Details. This slide should include essential information on Pricing (ex. 24.99 Euros, 34.99 USD)/ Monetization (ex. free with in-app purchases or Premium)/ Genre (ex. Horror, First Person Shooter, RPG, etc)/ Platforms (ex. PS5, Xbox Series X, PC, etc) / Release Date (ex. March 13 2021)/ and Territories (ex Europe & North America).
4. [Fourth Slide] Unique Selling Points. How does your game stand out from the crowd? This is one of the most important slides, and every Publisher is going to look for what separates your game from the competitive titles on the market. We see many Developers include basic features or established mechanics as USPs. The mistake can be twofold and stems from lack of research, naivety, or both. Either the Developer did not do enough Market Research and thinks they have a USP on their hands (unaware it’s in other games), or they don’t understand what a USP is. Either way, it doesn’t leave a good impression.
5. [Fifth Slide] Market Research & Positioning/Competitive Analysis; I can’t stress how important it is to do your Market Research. Market Research is a continuous process of understanding the space you’re entering and how to effectively release a product that will do well in it. Make sure you know the similar games that have done well, and the games that have not done well. This will lead to your USP — if you have done your research right, you will know if you have a USP or not.
Find 3 similar games that have done well, and 3 games that have not done so well. Build a Business Case (or a post-mortem) for each of these games, and condense your findings here. You want to show why the successful games have done well, and what you can do to have the same success. At the same time, you want to explain why the unsuccessful products didn’t do well and how you can avoid the same pitfalls. I would have “Post Mortem” documents ready that show your deep research if the Publisher is interested and wants to talk about this.
6. [Sixth Slide] Roadmap / Where you’re at. This should be visual. This is a good place to craft an attractive timeline of where you’re at in development, and when the major updates will release. Here is an example of a Roadmap up to release of the base game and another title that is post-release content Roadmap.
7. [Seventh Slide] Financial Snapshot & Scenarios. Taking the Market Research into account, and finding sales numbers for similar games, you’ll want to create excel forecasts for Low, Breakeven, Expected, and High financial scenarios. Your forecasts will not be accurate; they are ballpark numbers. Take the games that have not done well and use those numbers to scope out Low and Breakeven scenarios. Take the games that have commercially succeeded and use those numbers to surmise Expected and High scenarios. Remember to blend the sales between the games that have done well and not done well.
Sales numbers are hard to come by and unless the Developer/Publisher has released the information themselves or you’ve paid for the Data, there are only two methods that will give you the information you’re seeking. You can reach out to the Developer/Publisher directly or you can use the Boxleiter Method (if the competitive product(s) are on Steam).
It’s important to know both the commercial highs and commercial lows as it will give a more accurate financial representation of what your game can achieve. Your Financial Forecasts should reflect both the hits and the misses. Publishers will do this themselves and you want to make sure yours lines up with theirs. If you look at the games that have done well, your forecasts will be higher than the Publishers (as they are including games that have not done well). Remember they build risk-mitigation into their evaluation process meaning you should too.
8. [Eigth Slide] Team/Accolades/Praise/Accomplishments. Who is the team developing this game? You can include the Leadership team on this slide. If the Publisher is interested, they will ask for Bios on every team member later.
What is special about your team? Have you received any awards or accolades in your previous endeavors or under the current team/company? What are those around you saying about your strengths?
9. [Ninth Slide] The Ask. What do you want from the Publisher. Why are you reaching out to them? It’s important for you to convey what you’re looking for from a Partner. Usually it comes in the form of Funding, Marketing, Distribution, QA, and Localization. It could be one or all. You could state whether or not you’re open to selling the IP as it’s a common contention point which can reduce the sales process time if mentioned.
Note: It’s good to keep in mind the True Financial Ask. Most likely the number you budget for is the Development Costs for the game, but is not the entire costs of the project to get it to market. There are Marketing costs, QA costs, Localization Costs, and other miscellaneous costs. Even though you’ve put forward a number, the costs to get your game to market are most likely higher. You may not know or be able to surmise those numbers but the Publisher can and will. Keep this in mind as it will be good to know when you are negotiating.
10. [Tenth Slide] Thank You & Call to Action. Spell out Next Steps for those that are interested, curious or intrigued. If you don’t ask, you’re leaving it to chance whether or not the Publisher will take the next step. Make sure on the last slide you are asking the Publisher to do something that pushes them further into the process. Ask for a phone call or a play session if you have a build.
Be grateful the Publisher took the time to read through your opportunity. Even if it’s not a fit, thank them for their time, and keep in touch. Build the relationship as they could be interested in Publishing your game down the road (things change as Game Development is a long process!). You don’t want to burn bridges or leave a bad impression on a company that could partner with you in the future.
Caveat to this approach; this Pitch Deck allows your opportunity to be read and reviewed amongst all the noise. It gives you a shot. However, these are the fundamentals to get you started and there are other Developers that understand the principles and how this process works. They are cognizant of how Publishers work and constantly looking for ways to present opportunities that separate them from a crowded process. It’s in your best interest to act as a Unique Selling Person and find different ways to get your game and opportunities in front of the right partners.