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Publishing

Nail Your Publisher Pitch

4. clean a copy

Posted by Fraser Simpson on 19 July 2018

What makes a good submission

We know the feeling. You’ve been working hard at this thing for months - years even - and you’re so deep in the game, the detail, the dev journey, that it’s hard to explain exactly what you’ve made without basically writing your autobiography. We’ve been there. Really.

When you think about it though, apart from your announcement and then release day, a pitch is perhaps your other biggest opportunity to get people excited about the game you're making. The ideal pitch or submission – just like a trailer - will leave its audience thinking "This is great, I need it!” or in the case of a publisher, like us “This is great… we need to get involved before someone else does!"

Getting it right is tough, but I really think that less is more where pitching a game to a potential partner is concerned, so I thought I’d share some tips for getting that submission email (either to us or to anyone) just right.

We Love Simplicity

When you design your game, you think about your audience all the time; ‘Will they get this puzzle?’ ‘Is the path obvious enough?’ Well, pitching’s just the same.

Think about who you’re mailing or speaking to. How much time will they have, how many other submissions they have seen today, how is your game going to stand out? Is the difference clear enough? Are you hiding what’s special about your game behind paragraphs of text that aren’t really that important?

I’d really suggest cutting straight to the good stuff.

Here’s one example of how a good submission mail might work:

Hi YoYo!

We’re [STUDIO NAME]. We heard you’re publishing games now and we’d like to submit [GAME NAME], a game we’re making about [CONCEPT] for consideration.
We’ve included some links to a playable demo and a shared folder, which has some press kit, screenshots and more videos.

Some Info:

Team: 5 people, full time.
Percentage Complete: 90%
Estimated completion: Oct 2018
Target Platforms: Initially - Steam, Then PS4, Xbox, Switch

Thanks!
[DEV NAME]

[EMBEDDED GIF SCREENSHOT]

[COUPLE OF CONCEPT ART IMAGES]

Links:

- Game website
- Developer website, Especially if you’ve made some PREVIOUS HITS
- Demo Build
- Game/ Dev Twitters
- Link to shared folder.    

I love getting mails like this. It’s awesome. It gives me everything I need to know at a glance and makes my job so much easier.

This developer understands the context in which this mail will be read. And they're confident enough in their own game to let it do the work.

That's exciting! It makes me think "this team’s great!” and that’s a good start, right?

With this mail format I can check out the gifs and screenshots right away.

Does this look cool in an instant? It's the same question players will ask when they see the game online, on a storefront, or on a YouTube thumbnail. So make sure to pick the right screenshots. The ones that best sum up your game.

If you’re not far enough into production to have screenshots that look ‘finished’, then it’s fine to mock up a ‘game in a frame’; letting us know where you’re heading is just as good and builds confidence in the team’s vision.

I can’t overstate this – visuals are important. It’s everyone’s first encounter with your game, let us know what we’re getting or going to get eventually.

The Demo

If the images look cool, I’ll want to know more. So I follow the links. This team got my interest, and I'm acting on it. Next stop? The demo build!

Builds aren’t essential. If you don’t have one yet, that’s ok. If you do have one, include it in the first mail, it’ll make a difference.

When we play your demo, what we’re looking for is:

  • Is there something unique about this game? It could be a unique vision, an art style, a gameplay mechanic, a genre mash-up, a story. Again think about what we’re looking for – not every game is going to be a hit, but we all want it to be.
  • Is the unique thing about your game right up-front? is it important in the game? There’s no point in having an awesome unique mechanic and we don’t get to experience it very often.
  • Does it look like this team will be able to execute to a high standard? We’re developers, so we understand work in progress and grey-box. If we see an art vision, we can trust that you’ll get there. But ‘feel’ is something else. There’s really no substitute for a game feeling good.
  • Are we having fun? Obviously ‘what is fun’ is a whole other lengthy conversation, but if we’re having fun right away, then that makes a huge difference. It’s not essential - we’re expecting a work in progress - but if we’re laughing out loud or saying ‘one more turn’ after 5 minutes… it really helps.
  • One tip – you don’t need to make a tutorial for a submission, we’re fine with looking at a controls readme, and getting straight to the action.

And that’s most of it.

There’s no rocket-science here; if you have something great, make sure you present all the awesome and unique bits as clearly and obviously as you can.

Give us clear and direct info so that we can decide quickly, because it’s possible that you have something brilliant about your game, but we’ve been looking for a while and can’t see it yet, and that could get lost.

Ok… TL;DR

Good Stuff:

  • A short and clear description of your game and what’s special about it, in language anyone could understand really helps; ‘it’s something like Classic Zelda meets The Walking Dead’.
  • Get your USP or the heart of your game Front-and-Centre!
  • Show screens or a game-in-a-frame.
  • You don’t need a demo. But if we can play one, we will. And it really makes a difference.
  • Include YouTube links.
  • An example of something polished (could be a corner of an environment in your game, could be a previous game your team made that you're proud of).
  • Simple concise description of the team and its experience.
  • Let us know of any traction the game’s getting; we love to see something that people (a community, influencers or the press) are already talking about. If you’ve got that, tell us!
  • Let us know any other business info; if the game’s been crowdfunded; if it’s already out on another platform.

Not-So-Good Stuff:

  • Wall-of-text mails; no links, no art, just text. (you've probably made a tutorial, tested it, and iterated on it... so you already know how wall-of-text explanations go down).
  • A straight up genre piece – Let’s say you’re making a platformer. Great - but we’re looking for that extra something. What’s yours? Why should someone play your platformer and not Super Meat Boy or Mario?

You got all of that? Cool. So… MAIL US! publishing@yoyogames.com

Good luck!

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