So, you think the game you are working on just needs the right publisher to help you take over the gaming world. But how do you go about creating a pitch deck for your game which will be effective and help find the right publisher for you?
A pitch deck is only one piece of the puzzle, but it's a key part, not only to have something to present or send to publishers, but also as a process to help sanity check the why, what and how for your game, and in particular identify any gaps in your planning.
At Fundamentally Games, we review a significant number of pitches every month. Previous to Fundamentally Games, I was a developer (and had to create pitch decks myself) and then worked as a consultant helping developers to raise money and helping investors to find and assess potential games.
When we review pitch decks, we see many developers facing the same challenges, so we decided to create a publisher pitch deck template to help address some of these, especially when pitching a living game. We're not the first to create such templates, there are some great examples online from other publishers and individuals, and while ours is focused on living games and therefore has a specific angle, the advice is relevant to all games.
I do note however that raising equity investment into a company is fundamentally different to raising money for a game, and as such the pitch deck needs to be completely different.
Before we dive into the details, let's look at the key topics you should be looking to cover:
- What is your game and why is it for?
- What do you want and where are you now?
- Why should the reader trust that you can make this game successful?
Additionally, you should be thinking about taking the reader on a journey; don't just think about content, think about flow as well.
The following are the key sections that we recommend you cover in a publisher pitch deck.
1. Title page (obviously!)
The title page should be simple, with your game name and studio name, but importantly, it needs to catch my eye. What visuals would you use on your marketing materials? Think about how to get me excited to read more through the images you share -- and apply that throughout the deck, not just on this page.
2. Introduction (or executive summary)
I have seen a lot of debate around whether to include a summary slide at the start of your deck. My view is that it's really important, because I want to know the basics before I dive into the detail. This is useful for two reasons -- firstly, it helps me to understand the context of what I'm reading, and secondly, it helps me, as a publisher, check that the game actually fits our criteria.
Assuming you agree you should have an introduction, then this slide should have short bullet points of the basics... but really keep it short and easy to digest. Think about the key selling points as well as the key practical points that a publisher will need to know.
3. Show me the game
Now for the fun bit -- this is where you tell the reader about the game itself. You need to explain your game clearly and make your reader care about it. The way we like to think about this is:
- Immediate: help the reader understand your game in seconds, show what is special about your game and convince the reader that players will want to download your game.
- Relevant: explain why players will keep playing your game, what is the progression? Explain how players will be onboarded and how they will master the game. Don't just tell me what your key features are; tell me why those key features matter.
- Gorgeous: this doesn't mean AAA quality, but it does mean that theme and art style will appeal to your audience and meet expectations.
4. Why should this game exist now?
Everyone has a reason behind why they are making their game, however a common challenge we see is an assumption that there is a market, and audience need, for the game.
Firstly, consider your market. Your market isn't the whole games market, it's a specific segment. What are the trends in this market, where is there a gap? Are you sure it's a genuine gap and not just something that you want to play? Who are your competitors, what are your biggest challenges entering this market considering the other games that are already there? What are the market norms -- what expectations are there for games in this market?
Then consider your audience. Who are they? 'Male 18-35' is not an audience -- an audience is one or more groups of people, defined to sufficient granular detail that you know where you can reach them and what messaging they will respond to.
Games will often have more than one audience group, we tend to think about this in terms of primary, secondary and tertiary audiences, all of whom will play your game for different reasons and in different ways. Personas are a common way of identifying each audience group, as is looking at other games that they are currently playing.
Finally, and most importantly, tie your market and audience assumptions back to your game design. How does your game meet a genuine market gap and audience need? What is it about your game that will appeal? How does your game's lifestyle fit and mode of use match how, where and when your target audience play games?
5. The team
The team is always critical to any project, but every team presents a different risk. Your job throughout the deck is to demonstrate how you are reducing risk as much as possible, and to present an opportunity where the risk and potential reward is reasonably balanced. The team plays a key part in that -- if you're experienced, and you've had successful games before, that's going to reduce risk more than if you're a new team of graduates.
Whatever your team's background, you need to explain their key skills and experience, and make sure that: your team + planned hires + help that you're asking for in the deck = covering all the bases needed to make this game commercially successful.
It's ok to not have all the skills in house, or to lack experience, but whatever you are missing, you need to show that you recognise it, and that you have a plan to address it.
6. Data, data, data
As the team can reduce risk, so can proving that there is actually an audience for your game. Think of a game design as a hypothesis, and data as proving (or disproving) that hypothesis. Without data, you're asking someone to invest time (and maybe money) on a hypothesis. If your team has a track record of successful hypothesis (previous successful games), then you may get away with needing less data, but nothing will ever replace actual real players confirming that they will play -- and spend money on -- your game.
Firstly, consider what success looks like and how you will measure against it, and how you will use market norms as a line in the sand. Consider the types of data you will gather; this will depend on various factors including the type of game -- a free-to-play mobile title will gather different data to a narrative indie PC game.
Secondly, tell me what (if any) data you've gathered to date. If you haven't gathered any, why not?
Thirdly, tell me how you're going to gather data going forward, what types of testing you will do, and how your production plan is designed to support this, i.e. how will your process allow you to act on your findings?
7. Community & marketing
Some games will have the intention of leaving this completely to a publisher, and for some games that's fine (but if that's the case, make sure that's clear). However, most games need to build community, and in many cases the game benefits from the developer being at least involved in that process, if not running it.
So, assuming that you are planning on having at least some involvement in this area, then you should explain your plans. How will you engage and build a community, and how will you use that to improve your game? Why will anyone care about your game, what will your marketing strategy be? How will you build a rhythm of activity towards and post launch? If user acquisition is relevant to your game, how will you measure and test its effectiveness, what will your KPIs be?
8. ProductionThis is where you explain your budget, timeline, process and milestones. This information is usually best presented visually, I don't need the full details, just they key aspects.
What budget have you spent to date and how much more do you need to spend to get to launch? How much do you need to get to the point where the game is revenue sustaining? What still needs to be built and what is your timeline? What are your key milestones, and what are the key risks or unknowns that could vary your plan?
You want to ensure the reader is left feeling like your plan is realistic based on the game, the team and the market norms.
9. What do you need?
Finally, this is where you tell the reader what you're asking for.
You may be asking for money to fund production. If so, then clearly explain how much you need, what you're going to spend it on and when you need it by, and make sure it ties back to your production plan.
It's likely you will also need other support, so list those things too. You may want marketing support, but you may also need help, advice or support in other areas.
Additionally, consider who you're pitching to. Every publisher is different, there is no point asking for an amount of money or a specific type of support that is different to what the specific publisher can provide. Tailor your pitch as needed to the publisher you're pitching to.
Finally, make sure that what you're asking for is realistic, that it will give you everything you need to make this game a success -- asking for too little is just as bad as asking for too much.