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Hi folks! Assuming that there are at least some people here in this community that do have experience with retail distribution of PC CD titles, I would like to ask you about certain details in the process of submitting a game to a publisher. There already is a thread about pitching a game in this forum, but it does not contain the information I am looking for. I would like to know how I can convince a publisher in the first email I am sending to him that my game is the one he wants? What information do publishers need? For example, are they interested in such things as intended target audiences, or is that something they can figure out themselves? What makes a publisher consider a title attractive? By the way, I am talking about the publishing of a game that's already finished, so my concern is pointing out the strengths of an existing product rather than persuading someone to finance a project.

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I would like to know how I can convince a publisher in the first email I am sending to him that my game is the one he wants?


You can't. Use e-mail only as you have to track down a phone number. Call the appropriate department and speak to them on the phone. You don't convince them that your game is the one during the first point of contact, you convince them that your game is the one during the pitch.

What you need to convince them of now is that you're worth their time, as far as scheduling a pitch meeting goes. Be ready to answer questions as to the strength of your team (experience, qualifications, et cetera), the approximate financial situation of your studio, and how much money you need (be sure to point out that your product is "done" and you don't really need much, if any money for development).

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Thanks very much for the information. However, I do not quite understand how the strength of my team can play a role for a finished product - after all, there is no risk for them to end up having invested a whole lot of money into a team that's incapable of finishing the project. Even if we were a bunch of complete losers, it should not matter to them in this particular case.

As far as our financial situation is concerned: Is it a good idea to say anything else but that we are filthy rich? Otherwise, they will get the impression that we really need a deal, no matter how little we get...

And how much do we "need" for a project that is already done? Should I confront them with our development costs and expect them to pay accordingly?

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I would like to know how I can convince a publisher in the first email I am sending to him that my game is the one he wants?

At that point, you have already failed.

Let's start over and make some assumptions.

* You are a studio. Publishers are looking to make money from repeated successful business, and lone developers don't fit that need.

* You specifically and your studio generally have at least a little real-world experience in the inudstry. If you don't have the experience, you are indistinguishable from any 13-year-old game programmer wannabe who says "Look I made my first MMORPG called Kill the Pixel!"

* You have a lawyer. You should have discussed many issues about working with a publisher, exactly what rights you are intending to sell and what you intend to keep, liability, legal issues for financing, and so on.

* You have selected the publisher(s) that best suit your game.

* You have researched the submission policies of the publisher, have all the appropriate NDA and submission forms ready to fax in with signatures, and possibly had your lawyer review the submission forms.

At this point you should have the name of a contact within the company. That brings us to this point in your post:

Quote:

I would like to know how I can convince a publisher in the first email I am sending to him that my game is the one he wants?


You are (finally) ready to make your initial convincing presentation. Contact them to tell them you would like to submit some materials. REMEMBER THE FOLLOWING:
followed by

If possible, arrange a time and date to meet in person to submit the materials. This should be the first time that you really try to convince him. Arrange for a date to follow up if you haven't heard from them by then.

If an in-person visit isn't possible (that should never be the case, since flights are relatively cheap these days) then send the entire submission to them. Don't say "Go to the the web site mycoolsite.com/secretstuff/demo.iso and download it." Send a package containing all the necessary papers and a few copies of your stuff.

This in-person visit is not to pitch your product. It is to convince them to carefully review your submission materials. Make your presentation well and they will actually think about your submission. Present it poorly and they will just glance at it and send you their template rejection letter.

Then they will review your submission. This is the actual "pitching the game".

Quote:
What information do publishers need? For example, are they interested in such things as intended target audiences, or is that something they can figure out themselves? What makes a publisher consider a title attractive?

Make sure you are presenting something that they want. Their goal is to make themselves some money, not to make you money. They need to feel comfortable that your game will sell many copies. Not just enough copies to break even, but enough copies to make a significant profit. How many is that? Your presentation ought to provide them with realistic numbers for that.

They will glance at your game, or give it an in-depth review if your initial conversations were really stellar. If your game won't obviously sell 20,000 copies in the first month, they will just say "Thanks for your presentation. We are not interested at this time but look forward to future submissions." If your initial conversation went well, they might change the word 'obviously' and replace it with 'likely'.

Exactly how you make that presentation is up to you. It is an art and a skill. You can give exactly the same presentation to two people: one will hate it, the other will love it. They will expect your presentation to include target audience, realistic market research, realistic costs, and so on. The less work they have to do, and the more professional you make your presentation, the better off you are. They will expect you to point out the strengths of your game in the marketplace (= how it will make more money than another startup's game), and you will want to consider it in terms of how everybody meets their common goal of making lots of money.

To repeat it: Businesses exist to make money. Lots of money. Everything else is secondary.

Your sales pitch is less about showing off your product, and more about offering a product that will make lots of money.

Assuming the presentation goes well, they'll call you and arrange for ... a second presentation!

Then you give a presentation to people who people who make the financial decisions, not just the people who screen the garbage out and look for brillaint new ideas. That presentation is similar to the first except there is absolutely no excuse not to do it in person. And no, they won't pay for your flight or validate your parking stub.

The presentation is also a personal art. Two people in the presentation can walk away from it with completely different feelings. The best you can do is be prepared for whatever you can think of, and tell them that you can get those numbers to them if they want them after the meeting.

Hopefully you will have somebody at your studio who has a lot of people skills or is otherwise charismatic. They should be the one to do the bulk of the presentation. You could have two or three people there, one to do the presentation and the others to answer questions.

Finally, if your presentation goes well and they are convinced that your game will make money (which has a prerequisite of it being a good game), THEN you will be given the opportunity to negotiate.

You, your lawyer, your contacts with the company, and their lawyers and accounts will all negotiate a deal that tries to make each group as much money as possible with minimal risk.

Finally you get signed contracts.

Your "completed game" will then go though several rounds of review, QA, and other changes, so don't bother pitching it as a completed game. Pitch it as nearly complete and that you are willing to make modifications for them.

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Original post by Eisenbart
Thanks very much for the information. However, I do not quite understand how the strength of my team can play a role for a finished product - after all, there is no risk for them to end up having invested a whole lot of money into a team that's incapable of finishing the project. Even if we were a bunch of complete losers, it should not matter to them in this particular case.

It's finished from your perspective, but they're going to want to QA it, perhaps localize it, and they'll be coming back to you with certain modifications they'll want you to make. Your team had better be strong enough to deliver on those modifications within an acceptable timeframe.

Quote:
As far as our financial situation is concerned: Is it a good idea to say anything else but that we are filthy rich? Otherwise, they will get the impression that we really need a deal, no matter how little we get...

If you're filthy rich, why aren't you self-publishing? They just want to know that you're sustainable and don't need an immediate infusion of cash from them to support your studio. Also, your financial position will influence your negotiating position - how much of the publishing costs you can bear, and consequently how much of the returns on the product you'll be able to keep, percentage-wise.

Quote:
And how much do we "need" for a project that is already done? Should I confront them with our development costs and expect them to pay accordingly?

They're not paying you a dime for development. That's none of their business. They're going to acquire or license your game from you, perform quality assurance, then provide marketing, promotion and distribution. In return they will keep a portion of the proceeds, remitting the rest to you. If they paid you development costs, they would subtract that from the sales proceeds first - you wouldn't see a cent until they had recouped their investment.

I work for a publisher.

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Original post by Eisenbart
Thanks very much for the information. However, I do not quite understand how the strength of my team can play a role for a finished product - after all, there is no risk for them to end up having invested a whole lot of money into a team that's incapable of finishing the project. Even if we were a bunch of complete losers, it should not matter to them in this particular case.


They are investing in you. They are investing the time for meeting with you, the time to review your product, and the time to think about it. That's several hundred dollars worth of people time and equipment.

Then you want them to do something -- you want them to publish it for you. They will be investing their corporate name, which is very valuable. They will be investing in QA and testing. Even if they decide to ship your game as-is, they are going to test it before putting their name on it. They will have expenses in publishing, including the costs for marketing, distribution, lawyers, accountants, facilities and their management, and so on.

Even if they have to do nothing to modify your game, they are still investing several thousands of dollars. Since most games only generate sales for a few weeks after release, they need to be convinced that they will not only recover that investment within a month of release, but also give them a generous return on investment.

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Eisenbart wrote:

>I would like to ask you about certain details in the process of submitting a game to a publisher.

Read http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson21.htm and http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson35.htm

>how I can convince a publisher in the first email I am sending to him that my game is the one he wants?

You can't. You have to convince him with your full presentation, which preferably is done in person. Second best: delivered by FedEx or DHL.

>What information do publishers need? For example, are they interested in such things as intended target audiences,

Yes. Read the articles indicated above.

>What makes a publisher consider a title attractive?

What makes a woman find a man attractive? How does a person choose a car to buy? What is the average person's favorite color? Facetiousness aside, my point is: there is no one answer except: "It depends." Each publisher is different.

>I am talking about the publishing of a game that's already finished, so my concern is pointing out the strengths of an existing product rather than persuading someone to finance a project.

This increases your chances of getting it published, but you will still need to take it to a lot of publishers before one of them will pick it up. Read those articles and go through the submission process, and good luck.

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Wow, that's a lot of information, thanks very much! :-) However, I can't help feeling that not all of what has been said is universally true, there seem to be differences at least from continent to continent.

I should point out that I live in Germany and the publishers I am having in mind are scattered all over the world, many of them are located in the United States, for example. Therefore, a personal meeting is out of question, as the costs for flying around would probably entirely eat up what we *might* get from any such deal.

Another thing concerns royalties: I heard from experienced german developers that for a finished game you should get between 50 and 70 percent of the proceeds. Of course there are publishers who make you pay for their costs by subtracting from the proceeds, but I don't think that's a general rule - at least not everywhere in the world.

Does it help if our game has already sold in other countries? Is there any formula to translate those sales, based on the population? For example, if 1 percent of Germans by a game, is it reasonable to assume that 1 percent of US citizens wil do the same? If that were the case, it would be easier to convince a publisher.

Anyway, I guess you are right in saying that one should focus on pointing out how our game can make the publisher earn money and what makes our game unique.

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However, I can't help feeling that not all of what has been said is universally true, there seem to be differences


Of course. The only real universally truthful answer is "it depends."

Quote:

Therefore, a personal meeting is out of question, as the costs for flying around would probably entirely eat up what we *might* get from any such deal.


Either deal with it, or eliminate those publishers from your list of canidates. You're going to need to deal with them in person at some point, and they won't come to you. Also, working with publishers (or anybody) that far away can pose other serious issues -- e-mail, for example, is not always sufficient or effective for discussion, but coordinating conference calls across four or five time zones is not fun.

Quote:

Another thing concerns royalties: I heard from experienced german developers that for a finished game you should get between 50 and 70 percent of the proceeds.


The amount, and type, of kickback you get per sale varies widely. Perhaps in Germany, for a very experienced studio, that's a common number. If this is your first title, or the first time you've worked with a particular publisher, you are likely to get much, much less than that. However, since you've completed majority of the development of the game already, you should be able to settle for a lower royalty rate (you'll basically have to anyway) and still turn a decent profit, assuming decent sales and assuming you did not go into massive debt to get the point you're at now.

Quote:

Does it help if our game has already sold in other countries? Is there any formula to translate those sales, based on the population? For example, if 1 percent of Germans by a game, is it reasonable to assume that 1 percent of US citizens wil do the same? If that were the case, it would be easier to convince a publisher.


Unless the game has some kind of niche appeal that's valid only to a particular culture, it does help if the game has sold in other countries (it indicates that the game has some kind of market appeal). However, there are no real solid, reliable metrics by which you can translate sales like that. And, if the title has sold already in other countries, that may complicate your negotitions because the publisher may want to secure the rights to distribute the game in other countries and that may conflict with how you're currently distributing the game.

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Original post by tsloper
This increases your chances of getting it published, but you will still need to take it to a lot of publishers before one of them will pick it up. Read those articles and go through the submission process, and good luck.


Thanks. Thanks for the links also. How many publishers is "a lot"? 10, 50 or 100? Are there that many publishers at all? I found some on the internet, but I have now other means of searching for international publishers from Germany. I guess that "small" publishers will more readily be interested in our game, but how do I find them?

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Why don't you try to get your game onto the digital distribution systems, like steam, etc... It's a more realistic option for someone in your place, as it's very unlikely you are going to get shelf space. In theory this lets you maintain control and probably make more money than you would if u were to get a publisher.

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Quote:
Original post by Eisenbart
Quote:
Original post by tsloper
This increases your chances of getting it published, but you will still need to take it to a lot of publishers before one of them will pick it up. Read those articles and go through the submission process, and good luck.


Thanks. Thanks for the links also. How many publishers is "a lot"? 10, 50 or 100? Are there that many publishers at all? I found some on the internet, but I have now other means of searching for international publishers from Germany. I guess that "small" publishers will more readily be interested in our game, but how do I find them?

It really only takes one. [grin]

("IT DEPENDS.") You will probably end up working with under 10 (maybe under 5, perhaps even just one) local companies, and have more than one discussion about what they liked and what they didn't, making friends with the individuals involved, and eventually getting a deal. People work with their friends. Friends will help you publish games even if they are awful (=Big Rigs). People, including those who work in game publishing, will take risks for friends that they would never take for complete strangers.

You will never get a publishing deal if you just send the right forms along with a disc to all the publishing companies and assume that your contracts will be sent to you the next day.

You may eventually get a publishing deal if you keep an open line of communication, get feedback frequently, and build friendships with those same people.

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Eisenbart wrote:

>How many publishers is "a lot"? 10, 50 or 100?

Did you read those articles yet???

>Are there that many publishers at all?

Yes.

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Most of the (excellent) feedback you've received here deals with the typical position; trying to sell a 'AAA' title to EA, Activision or THQ. Without knowing your team or product, it's hard to say what class you fall into, but here's an alternative take on it.

The German (and European) market's very different from the US one; you've got lots of smaller boutique publishers like 10Tacle, etc, and a nicely/painfully fragmented retail channel.

In the US, the vast bulk of retail goes through a few shops (walmart, EB, GS, etc), which gives them a stranglehold on distribution. As a result, Publishers in the US pay a significant amount up-front (for shelf-space, in-store advertising, cap-space, etc before they even BEGIN to sell their product). It increases risk, and reduces the chance that you'll be able to sell a niche title that would sell quite OK in Europe. The barrier to entry is significant, and has hit excellent titles like Longest Journey, Space Rangers and Patrician (either delaying or nixing their US debut).

On the assumption that your title is one of the small titles that flurish in Europe:
- none of the 'big' publishers will take a PC title that's not set up to be a massive hit. That puts EA, Activision, THQ, etc out of your league.
- You're probably correct in assuming that flying around pitching the product in the US is likely to exceed any funds generated by sales of licensing rights for the US (usually somewhere around 5-40K USD + royalty backend).
- You might want to look at a smaller partner (or a pure distributor), someone like Excalibur or Strategy First.
- If your title is smallish (<200-400 MB for a hardcore audience), you might want to look online distribution.

Of course, if you're really sitting on the next mass-market, AAA tomb raider or Crytek franchise, you should just ignore me, and start phoning EA and Activision.


Good luck,
Allan

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Original post by tsloper
>Are there that many publishers at all?

Yes.


You do not happen to have a list of them, do you? ;-)

Our titel is not an AAA smash hit, its a budget game. Its an economic simulation aimed mainly at casual gamers, though some power gamers may like it, too.

By the way, I do appreciate the feedback I am getting here, it has been very informative so far! :-)

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Eisenbart wrote:
>You do not happen to have a list of [all the publishers], do you? ;-)

No, but I have a list of links to sites where you can find lists of publishers. Go on my website and click GAME BIZ LINKS.

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And how much do we "need" for a project that is already done? Should I confront them with our development costs and expect them to pay accordingly?


No offense, but if you do not already know up front what costs you will be asking a publisher to defray then you seriously need to consider getting someone more experienced to assist you.

If you are referring to marketing and distribution costs, then the Publisher worries about those, you simply work with them to get them the information they need (data on the game, screens, interviews, demos, gold master disc, etc).

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It is always fascinating to me what the various perceptions out there are.

Amazing how Frob can write such a lengthy reply and fill it with such generalizations stated as fact. Tom's good articles are always a nice place to start, and he liberally tells the gamedev world about them (But I do the same with my book, so I can't complain).

You asked a simple question it takes a simple answer. You make a good game.

Ok? Now you ask "Who the hell are you?" Well, I am the guy who makes the decisions for a US publishing company on what we use and what we don't use. It isn't unilateral, but if it doesn't get past me it likely doesn't get anywhere. I also run a marketing company, but that isn't the point.

The problem with some of the posts in this thread is they make the assumption that every player in the world uses the same business strategy, while, in the same breath telling you that every situation is different.

Every business is run differently. The only factor that is absolute between EA, Tri Synergy (my client), and whoever you are publishing with in Germany is the question of "Is it any good?"

Anyway, don't believe what random people tell you. You'll really need to figure out who's opinion to trust and who really knows what is going on... Tom is not wrong, Frob isn't wrong, I am not wrong. We merely have three different perceptions of truth. A post on a forum is a horrific way to ask this question. You need to find people you trust, both on a personal and professional level, and get their opinions.

Best of luck, feel free to contact me via my website if you want a private discussion.

Sincerely,
Joe Lieberman
VGSmart Marketing
Author, Indie Developer's Guide to Selling Games

[Edited by - vgsmart on August 7, 2006 7:23:53 PM]

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offtopic - vgsmart - the link in your sig points to http://www.indiegameguide.com.com instead of http://www.indiegameguide.com/

you might want to fix that coz its a completley different site which actually still links to the book!!!

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im currently still learning C++ and have a steam-like project running for my future games if u want u can put your games on that to but it will take a long time before it's finished since im a amateur :D.

But anyway try talking to the developer of another steam like program called vapour check their website : http://vapour-online.com (i think the website is down at moment not sure but keep checking everytime u feel like checking it does exist)

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