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Subject: How to write an Elevator Pitch? rss

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Sam Mercer
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Heya guys, this fom exampleofplay, an instructive on how to write an elevator pitch for your game. Having a pitch like this is highly reccomended before attempting anything to do with publishers and I find really helps when looking for playtesters.

Cross posted from www.exampleofplay.com

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The pitch is the interface between the hobby and the profession



Convention season is on us and you’ve just bumped into that industry professional you have always wanted to meet. You walk up to him with your game in your backpack and a big goofy smile. You exchange pleasantries and then he asks what’s in your backpack. You open your mouth, and then stop. Where do you start? There’s just so much to say! Then, as you try to scrabble to organize your thoughts, he is called off and on his way. You are sure that if you were better organized he would have been very interested in your concept. To break out of the hobby and into the semi-professional, your games each need to be equipped with a pitch.

Telling me about your game is boring.

Sorry to say, but if you just “told him” about your game ad-lib, chances are it will be a hodgepodge, scattergun approach that will take too long because you are so excited and unprepared. He may be very indifferent, lose interest, of even stop you halfway through your explanation. He may think that the next 20 minutes he will need to listen about your game before I can even decide if he likes it or not. These 20 minutes are lost. You would do better to get to the heart of the information as fast as you can. Ideally you would have a snapshot or some kind of movie trailer (with portable projector) for your game to have the good stuff condensed down. This want of a précis (indicative abstract) is exactly the same reason why we look at the back of a box before buying it – to get to the point.

What is the goal of a ‘pitch’?

There are many evolutions and vehicles of a “pitch”; mission statements, public strategy, sales presentations, “Barking”, poster events, executive summaries, etc x 1000, but the one that you need to concentrate on as a boardgame designer is the “Elevator Pitch”. The goal of this is to tell someone enough about your game for them to make a judgement in the shortest amount of time possible. “Yes I will playtest your game, yes I will listen to your full pitch, yes I do think this is a decent concept”, is what you want to hear after a pitch like this. Remember, that if the answer is “no thanks, that is not interesting” or similar, then you will be saving time for yourself and your subject – this is a very good thing and leaves you with more time to speak to others that will have better inclination towards you.

You get one chance, so make it good.

“What if they say No, but I didn’t really have time to get to the best bits?”, then unfortunately, your pitch was bad. This kind of pitch is a concise verbal presentation of your idea that acts to summarize your proposition. The long and the short of this, means “Put the good bits first”, aka “get to the point”.

The anatomy of an Elevator Pitch

You have thirty seconds to say it all. Traditionally this was the time you had to speak to someone in an elevator ride up to their floor.
Use clear language. No fancy words, forgo all abbreviations and assume no prior knowledge of your game. Concise.
Use powerful and visual words. It is ok for this to sound a little bit “salesy”, it needs to demand attention and leave the listener with a strong and visceral image.
Tell a story. Why does this game exist? What are the steps that brought you here?
Practice. Yes in front of the mirror. Yes you have to know it off the top of your head. Yes you have to practice in front of friends.

How do you create an Elevator Pitch?

Step 1. Write everything down. Write down a few different ways of explaining your game. Don’t edit yourself at all; just start collecting your ideas. Put in as much long-form, blabbery, stream-of-consciousness stuff as you can here; write it all down in all the ways you can think of. Why does this game exist? How did you make it? What was your goal in making this game? What are your hopes for this game?

Step 2. Leave it for 24 hours. For at least one day, leave all of this information and don’t touch it. You will come back tomorrow with a fresh look on everything. This is ironically one of the most important steps, do not negate this as it will give you an exceptional look into your own game.

Step 3. Revisit and highlight the best stuff. With a highlighter, find the parts that really stand out to you (remember to keep the above list in mind here)

Step 4. Bring it together. This is your chance to start writing the script for your main pitch, using your fresh eyes and your highlighted stuff; you will start drafting the pitch and connecting the best pieces together.

Step 5. Success and practice. Read it aloud to a friend or family member. Read it again to a mirror, if you have the technology and inclination, read it into a Dictaphone or record yourself speaking, this will highlight some very important weaknesses, not limited to the fact that you do not sound anything like James Bond even though you think you do (L).

To Sum:

Write it all and condense it down to 30 seconds. So when someone asks you “Tell me about your game”, you will be properly equipped and prepared.
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If board game designers have to emulate the Hollywood production process, the terrorists have already won.
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Matt Green
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Kaffedrake wrote:
If board game designers have to emulate the Hollywood production process, the terrorists have already won.
No one has to do anything, I think the OP is suggesting something that might work. Hollywood must be a pretty cut-throat place, I imagine, so any technique that is effective there must be of some worth.
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Scott Nelson
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You forgot "...And be able to be heard over all the fuss going on in the next 4 booths and the convention itself."
I leave the rules if they feel inclined to listen to the whole pitch. If they care, they will do some work on their own, invest some time into the project before it is even theirs.
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Rocco Privetera
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I've been writing Elevator pitches for a while (I'm trying to sell scripts and work with other guys in film). Everything above is true.

Another take - if I was approaching this the same way - given the nature of story, it's usually something like "character A, in situation B, has this ironic twist C". Obviously a boardgame isn't specifically a story and all, but the idea is the same - you have to have a compelling sum-up that hooks the listener but doesn't quite give away the farm, so that the listener says "hmm, ok, tell me more".

A typical thing to both consider and be careful of is the "it's x meets y". yeah, that might get your point across better than a lot of other pitches, and it *might* be a way to go, but it's usually not a good thing to lead with because it feels unoriginal. Save the "x meets y" for the second line or the second paragraph. Here's an off-the-cuff pitch for "the Thing" the boardgame:

"A group of researchers are trying to stop the outbreak of a space born shapeshifting virus on a military base, fighting off threats of invading spies, inclement weather, and rampaging monsters, using cards and monitoring the spread over a map, while secretly one player is already infected. It's Pandemic meets Shadows over Camelot."

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Tod Hostetler
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I used to train people to present games at E3.

Practice a very carefully scripted version of the pitch. Memorize it word for word and practice, practice, practice. Out loud, to friends and family and co-workers. Lots of times.

Then, when it's time to actually make the pitch, throw out the script and just wing it. All that practice of the scripted version will have given you a super-precise knowledge of your bullet points; you'll know in the moment which to emphasize and which to leave out.

You'll come off sounding very natural but also very knowledgeable with this technique. I've seen it work again and again.
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Liz Spain
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I end up doing a lot of elevator pitches for board games, mostly in the form of barking to convince people to play demo games. Here's my elevator pitch writing formula:

1. Identify the coolest part of the game to your audience and start with that.

E.G. (while running demos of Last Night on Earth at a horror fan convention) "Hi, you wanna kill zombies in an '80s B-Movie?"

2. If that catches their interest, continue the pitch with 2 or 3 sentences that state what the game is, how it's played and another cool fact.

E.G. "In Last Night on Earth, one person controls the zombies while everyone else plays classic zombie movie characters working together using their different skills to fight them off. For instance, the Sheriff starts with a gun, which is handy, but his son can run really fast."

3. Then I end with the classic marketing "offer to engage" with the product.

E.G. "It takes about 20 minutes to try the game out and I've got a spot open at this table right here."


Of course, if you're pitching to publishers, distributors or LFGS, they're looking for different things, so I'd aim at pitching different aspects. For example, my elevator pitch to retailers for the game I'm developing right now goes something like this:

"We're developing a card game about steampunk explorers that has amazing artwork from over a dozen different artists.

Incredible Expeditions can be played competitively, co-op, or solo and a short game takes less than an hour to play. Our game has solid mechanics, great potential for expansion and we've got a lot of interest from people who've never played a hobby board game before.

We'd love to demo the prototype at your store some time. Do you have a game night for new games?


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James Mathe
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Timely post since I'm doing a Publisher speed dating event at GenCon. I'll let them know of this thread.

https://www.facebook.com/events/128530094007784/

Probably also do one at BGG.CON

James
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Brian Upton
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Part of my job is to screen game pitches for PlayStation. Most of the time I know within 30 seconds whether a game is worth my time or not, but I usually listen to the whole pitch just to be polite. Here are some more things to keep in mind:

1. I don't give a crap about your backstory. I don't want to listen to a long explanation of the internal politics of your fantasy kingdom. Give me a quick, one-sentence description of the setting for context, and move on.

2. Tell me your hook.
What makes your game stand out from other similar games? If you don't have a hook, then why will players buy your game? Backstory is not a hook. Distinctive art or inventive mechanics are hooks.

3. Demonstrate to me that you personally are worth working with. A pitch is also an interview. How do you respond to probing questions or critique? Are you going to be a pleasure to collaborate with, or a pain in the ass? Can you think creatively on your feet? Are you capable of defending the integrity of your vision without being a dick?
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Sam Mercer
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Brian, I love that "I don't give a crap about your backstory". That is efficient, ruthless, and damned fine advice right there. I will be stealing this phrase and using it with my prototype playtest guys if you wouldn't mind mate
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TheHamsterKing wrote:
3. Demonstrate to me that you personally are worth working with. A pitch is also an interview. How do you respond to probing questions or critique? Are you going to be a pleasure to collaborate with, or a pain in the ass? Can you think creatively on your feet? Are you capable of defending the integrity of your vision without being a dick?
All interesting points, Brian; I'm picking on this one because I am interested in what kind of probing questions you could ask of somebody that would give you definitive answers in such a short time.

I mean, I would probably say something like, "I like the game but not the theme; would you mind awfully if I change it?" Or perhaps, "There's too much of this fantasy/scifi/horror stuff around these days; what would you do to change that aspect of your game?"

How far off the mark am I?
 
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I would love to see examples of real pitches that resulted in contracts. If we were learning to write short stories or magazine articles, we would have plenty of examples to examine, not just abstract rules of thumb.
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Scott Nelson
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I know the last elevator pitch I wrote was a lonnnnng elevator ride. I covered far too much and not much theme, mainly a full turn was explained. That one didn't get even read. The next one, to the same guy, short and sweet and he wanted to read the rules.

Scott
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Sam Mercer
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ropearoni4 wrote:
I know the last elevator pitch I wrote was a lonnnnng elevator ride. I covered far too much and not much theme, mainly a full turn was explained. That one didn't get even read. The next one, to the same guy, short and sweet and he wanted to read the rules.

Scott
Beautiful. How did it do after he read the rules Scott?
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Scott Nelson
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As for games published or soon to be, nothing ever in person has worked for me. I don't attend a lot of conventions though. The shortest emails have been the ones that get the okay to send the rules, then the prototype. The quickest reply was "I like it. It sounds fun. Call me, and we'll talk." I guess I pitched it over the phone in this case.
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Brian Upton
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fellonmyhead wrote:
All interesting points, Brian; I'm picking on this one because I am interested in what kind of probing questions you could ask of somebody that would give you definitive answers in such a short time.

I mean, I would probably say something like, "I like the game but not the theme; would you mind awfully if I change it?" Or perhaps, "There's too much of this fantasy/scifi/horror stuff around these days; what would you do to change that aspect of your game?"

How far off the mark am I?
Videogames are a little different from board games because a videogame often gets pitched much earlier in development. When I see a game, it might exist only in prototype form, or even just as concept art. So I know there's going to be a lot of back and forth between publisher and developer while the game is being built out and part of my job is to assess what that relationship is going to be like.

There's usually not one specific question I ask. Instead I tend to watch how the developer responds as I start asking hard questions about the details. Are they defensive? Arrogant? Argumentative? Passive? A couple of years ago there was actually a developer we rejected for being too willing to change his game. He was like "tell me exactly what you want me to do and I'll do it". And our response was "actually, we want someone who's a little more passionate about his artistic vision".

I guess what I'm saying is to keep in mind that you're not just pitching your game, you're also pitching yourself as someone who's desirable to work with. You want to seem creative, passionate, professional, sensible, responsible. Sell your game first, but don't forget to sell yourself.
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Want something fun to read - Check out My Top 100 the 2019 Edition!
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And I learn about another small but obviously important aspect of our hobby and the design process.

Thanks for that.
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TheHamsterKing wrote:
Sell your game first, but don't forget to sell yourself.
Rrrright... With advice like this, game designers will soon start saying "Me love you long time"
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Sam Mercer
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LocoNeko wrote:
TheHamsterKing wrote:
Sell your game first, but don't forget to sell yourself.
Rrrright... With advice like this, game designers will soon start saying "Me love you long time"
As said in the original article, "The pitch is the interface between the hobby and the profession". So if you want to keep being a hobby designer, you are right.

But if you want to be a serious and professional designer, you really need to conduct yourself as a person that a publisher will look at with a serious and professional eye. If I am a publisher, I want to know (exactly as Brian was saying) if you will be a good person or not to work with, as a publisher I will be investing a lot of money into you. You need to prove to me that you are someone who is passionate and professional.

I suppose the question is what is more important; you as a person, or your game.
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Never underestimate the importance of pitches when courting retailers as well. If you're in a open-field environment like GTS your ability to quickly and concisely pitch your game is critical.
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