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Game Connection My Experience as an Indie Developer

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I wanted to write up my experiences about Game Connection for other Indie Developers since I could not find any clear information about experiences at Game Connection on the web, and wanted to give other people an idea what it is about, and whether it is useful for them or not. My name is Chris Allar, I am a developer who has been working on my game on and off for over 8 years now, and it is finally in a complete “single-player” state. I attended Game Connection to attempt to look for funding/publisher to sell the game as is, or to possibly continue development into a MMO, in which the entire framework of the game is designed to be converted to. You can check out information about the game or download the game at http://www.crystaldragon.com The game is called Vantage: Prehistoric Simulation Game. It’s a game where you play a prehistoric caveman, and you have the ultimate objective: to stay alive! You attempt to create fires, spear hunt animals and forage for food to survive. What is Game Connection? Website: http://www.game-connection.com/ Game Connection is a mini-expo that runs approximately at the same time as GDC, and at the same location. This year it started on a Monday and ran for three days (GDC started Tuesday). Game Connection’s seems to purely be a top-level business meeting event. The way it works is that you list yourself as a buyer or seller (buyers get in for much cheaper, but I will talk about that later ), then you access the Game Connection website. There you see a full list of all buyers and sellers, and you request meetings with other companies who offer the services you are looking for. The meetings take place in 30 minute intervals back to back. It’s a form of “speed dating” but in a purely high-end business deals fashion. If companies accept your meeting invitation, you have 30 minutes to talk with them and pitch your game/service, then it is on to the next company. The setup of Game Connection is basically a set of meeting rooms and open tables for the purpose of purely having a place to meet and talk, and not much more. The whole event is purely business meeting oriented, there is no “glitz and glamour” at all, except for maybe a poster or two outside of a booth advertising their game. There are two types of meeting areas, there is the open “business lounge” area, this is simply a set of about 100 or so tables all in one big area. It is simply a table, four chairs, and an electrical outlet to plug your laptop in. The other type is the closed meeting rooms. For more money (ill talk about that later) you can purchase a closed space, complete with a television, table/chairs etc. for if you wish to have private meetings, for showing a new game or service that you do not want to make public. You can think of Game Connection as the big leagues. This is a meeting expo literally set on a world stage! In fact, most of the closed meeting rooms were organized next to each other by country they were representing. Also, most of the countries represented there seem to be funded to be there by their actual governments themselves. Some of biggest representations were Canada (the largest) followed by US, France, United Arab Emirates, Spain just to name a few. Is Game Connection Right For You? If you are an Indie Game Developer who is making games out of their basement all by themselves, or as a few friends on no budget, the concept of Game Connection may be a bit overwhelming for you, but that does not mean you should just disregard it, however there many things I will explain you really should know below. 1. Price point Game Connection is EXPENSIVE! Especially for an indie developer. I believe you can register on the game connection website and view their prices. I chose to purchase the cheapest exposition plan they have, which was to attend to only 1 day, and that was in the open business lounge. I was allowed to have 15 meetings for the day. The price, over $1600. Again, that is for the cheapest seller package. I believe a three day price nearly doubles that price, and I have not even gotten into the enclosed booths yet. I believe for a 3 day enclosed booth runs close to $10000 if not more. 2. Actual meeting compatibility If you are planning to have a very specific plan for selling your game and have specific guidelines (like only looking for a US publisher, etc). You may want to be very careful in investing in Game Connection. As I mentioned before this is a “world stage” expo. This year the US was equally represented just as much as many other countries. Even if you pay for a 1 day slot, you still have to go through the process of requesting meetings (and people can request meetings with you too). Just because you have 15 open slots does not mean you are guaranteed 15 meetings. I, for example, only had 8 meetings in my 1 day slot. Some companies had 3 day enclosed booths, and only 6 meetings total. 3. Is your game complete? Or fully playable? Most companies and games I was able to see there were in fully playable states. You must realize you will be talking to high end publishers and usually the highest-ranking people in those companies. If you just there to possibly pitch a game you have no running version of, or very incomplete, it may be tough to make any progress in a meeting. This is very common for just pitching a game in general, not just at Game Connection. If You Decide to Attend Game Connection. Hopefully all works out well for you! I can definitely give you some advice. 1. Watch for Sellers selling to you! If you are selling, you basically want to make meetings with “buyers”. Its sort of a taboo thing about expositions that if you are there to sell, other people looking to sell products should not be pitching to you on your dime, unless you want them to of course. Buyers only pay a few hundred dollars to attend so there should many to choose from. If you have sellers looking to meet with you and you are not interested you can decline meetings, or you can ask for an email or business card so you can talk with them at a later time. Don’t fill up your slots or your time with unwanted meetings! 2. Last minute meeting system Don’t be too upset about having open slots before attending Game Connection. During the few days before, and during the actual expo, lots of buyers register at the last minute, or do on-site registration. As you are doing meetings, check the Game Connection website and your email often for last minute meetings. I started the day with 6, and ended up with 3 more productive meetings that day. 3. Business Cards/brochures I always need to remind friends to make business cards. Even for GDC, bring lots of business cards. And of course give the people you meet with a brochure/booklet, something they can look at to remind them of you game. Most of the people you meet have to go back to their respective companies and talk about the options you laid out to them with other people. 4. Business lounge- Ads limited If you are just doing the business lounge you have limited space and cannot really advertise except what you put on your table. You may be able to have a small poster stand next to your table, other than that not much can be done there. Overall: Hope this helps you make a decision about this. Basically, if you do not have a playable game, and you are not interested in getting your game into the mainstream industry you may want to avoid Game Connection. It is expensive, but keep in mind these prices are not out of the ordinary. I spent about $200 per each half-hour meeting. Overall for me I will say I came out even. But we will see if I land any deals 

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I would agree with the above. You need a great demo and you need a focused pitch. With introductions and goodbyes you basically have 15-20 minutes to sell your game. Strawdog Studios went to game connection with their first game. They got meetings with publishers they wouldn't normally have managed to meet and three of them were interested and one signed it.

Talking to the acquisitions guys afterward they said that lots of the developers aren't able to explain their own game or that demos are badly presented, resulting in no publisher interest. GC is worth doing but you need to make sure you practice your pitch before you go.

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Hey, thanks for the great tips, but I've still a few questions.

What approach did you take to present your pitch to the buyers? What strategies mediums did you or other sellers you saw use to make their pitch?

Also, are the buyers there generally understand that your time's cost is high, therefore understand if you did a simple meeting before starting your pitch, or is it more important to do a proper greeting and parting as to leave a good impression?

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Quote:
Original post by fm47
Also, are the buyers there generally understand that your time's cost is high, therefore understand if you did a simple meeting before starting your pitch, or is it more important to do a proper greeting and parting as to leave a good impression?

This is a strange question.
I don't understand why you're asking this. YOUR time is valuable, as you say, but the time of the people to whom you're pitching is certainly no less valuable.
I don't even understand what you're asking. Are you asking if you should march straight in and not be warm and human but rather start right in on your pitch? Why would you ever meet anybody without doing a "proper" greeting and parting? Anybody? Ever? In any circumstances? Why?

Edit: Oh wait. Now I see that it's in a speed-pitching environment. Obviously you have to keep the thing short, but you have to find the right balance between being a pleasant and human person and spending too much time on the pleasantries. And obviously their time is still at least as valuable as yours, even if you are paying money for your time.

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Most people there know that it is a 30 minute power meetings. They know to have quick pleasantries then get right to it. I usually just break the ice with "so how have your meetings been going so far?" Then it usually gets right down to business after that.

Actually the "buyers", the people who are meeting with you, are usually more dillegent about keeping the 30 minute time limit. They usually let you talk for 5-10 minutes, then they start asking the specific questions they need to ask for their company.

I did have at least one person who did not realize the amount of money sellers pay to attend the event. It not really a problem though.

My only other strategy I didnt really mention is make sure you have a general business plan for you company as well. A plan for moving your game/company forward, and a cost plan to do so.

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