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How to Pitch Your Video Game to Publishers, Venture Capitalists, and Platform Holders

How to Pitch Your Video Game to Publishers, Venture Capitalists, and Platform Holders

December 7, 2021
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Creating a good game requires a good idea, a professional development team that can fully realize its potential, and some amount of funding to see the project to completion. Successful companies can make this seem like a matter of course, but for indie developers, just getting started, it's a journey of a thousand steps. If you’re seeking investment money, the first step is to create an impactful pitch worthy of showing to a funding source.

Funding sources

To target your preferred funding source, you'll first need to identify what you want from them. Is funding at the top of your list? Promotion and marketing? Put together a list of potential funding sources to see what services they offer. Make sure you evaluate their revenue split and how much control they want, as these can be contentious or even deal-breakers for many developers.

Certain funding sources are better suited for specific projects. Some may prioritize games of a particular genre, while others focus on team size. Devolver Digital primarily works with indie developers, for example.


Before you pitch your game, you need to be able to answer these questions: 

  • Do you have a clear vision for your game?
  • Do you know what makes your game unique?
  • What will make funding sources pay attention to your game? 
  • What are your team's strengths and weaknesses? 
  • Can you realize your game's intended level of quality?

To create a good pitch, a developer needs to know the answers to these questions. They all will factor into your pitch's overall quality, so they deserve careful consideration. 

Publishers 

A game publisher finances a video game’s development, handles its marketing and release, and expects some return or revenue share on their investment. In other words, if an aspect of game development has anything to do with the business side of things, the publisher will likely handle it, freeing you and your team to focus on your game.

Some of the many companies that specialize in working with indie developers include:

Companies like Limited Run Games and iam8bit specialize in releasing physical copies and collector’s editions of select games.


One of the most significant benefits of having a publisher is handling all of your game's marketing. They create social media posts, manage community outreach, research and target different audiences with ads, and so on. Most developers don't have time for this side of the video game business, making publishers welcome partners.

Working with a publisher also means that they provide funding for your game. You won’t have to pay out of pocket for salaries, assets, freelance artists, etc. You will, however, have to share your game's earnings with the publisher once it is released.

The disadvantage of using a publisher is that they won’t always promote you and your team as developers, just your game. Establishing your brand or community can make it more challenging, as your releases will likely be associated more with the publisher.

Publishers can also take a substantial share of your revenue —  anywhere from 20% to 70% — and, in some cases, they will want to recoup their investment 100% before sharing any revenue.

Also, be aware that a publisher may want to have a say in the creative process, and often, what they say goes. This is why you should thoroughly review and negotiate — and then have a lawyer review on your behalf — any contractual agreements before signing on. Sacrificing creative control could be a deal-breaker for you.

Investors 

Video game investors and publishers prefer strong teams. They value leadership, a reliable business model, and a capable group. Investors don’t typically fund solo game developers; they opt to back small game studios. 

To interest an investor, the game studio will need some background in the gaming industry. Embed yourself in the industry, attend virtual or in-person events, participate in online forums, do your research, forge personal connections, and build the best prototype possible. Look for investors that have a history of funding games like yours. Use sites like LinkedIn and MicroVentures to discover investors. Game Seer and other angel investors may be worth pitching, depending on what kind of game you're creating. 

In many cases, partnering with an investor means giving up equity in the studio. The investor will get some of your company shares, and they might also want a chair with your team to influence certain decisions. At the very least, they will want to be kept informed on your progress and any other agreed-upon information at a regular cadence. 

Most investors aren’t as involved as publishers, so you will have more freedom to make your own decisions as a developer. This is one reason why investors search for organized teams and studios with business and marketing knowledge. They want to make sure their money is in safe hands. Their money will then give the developer the resources to market a financially successful game. So an investor won’t just be investing in your game; they’ll be investing in you and your team.

Platforms 

Platforms are manufacturers of the hardware and software that a game runs on, such as Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo. They tend to prefer tighter control over what games they sponsor and feature, which means they’re very concerned about quality. Some developers pitch directly to platform holders because they want to develop certain platform-specific features or simply be sure that their game will come out as polished as possible.

Tighter control means more restrictions, which may be too much for many development teams to handle. To create and sell games on many console platforms, developers must have specific licenses, permissions, and SDKs, many of which are expensive and time-consuming to get. However, this is much easier than it used to be. Compare this to the PC platform, which is open to anyone.

While dev kits and SDKs can be expensive, that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to obtain. Read more about getting dev kits in our previous feature.

What to include in your pitch

A modern pitch should speak to investors and publishers on their level. Excite them with your game and vision, but always address their practical business concerns. The bottom line is you need to appeal to their bottom line. Our industry veterans have extremely practical advice on what to include to ensure your pitch is taken seriously.

Prepare an elevator pitch

While it can be tempting to gush about your game, it's essential to crystalize your message. Consider how brief commercials are — anywhere from 8-30 seconds — they're effectively elevator pitches for products and services. Your elevator pitch is effectively a commercial for your in-development game. Embrace the brevity.

Use GIFs

These files have become ubiquitous for a reason: they condense video into instantly digestible moments. You can easily liven your presentations with your best gameplay in the form of quick GIFs.

Provide a prototype

A first playable, vertical slice or other prototypes can make a huge difference in how a potential investor sees your game, but it needs to be fun right out of the gate. Prototypes don't have to look as polished as a final release, but be ready to bring the fun.

Show gameplay videos

If you have a prototype, give potential investors even more of your best gameplay to look forward to. Impress them with where you're headed with well-cut, high-resolution footage of your game in action.

Answer the big questions with a presentation deck

Tell investors and publishers what they need to know in 10-12 slides by answering:

  • Who are you and your team? Who is the game for?
  • What is the game? What platforms do you want to publish on? What will it cost? What engine is the game built-in?
  • Where is the audience for this game? Which 3-5 current games are they playing?
  • When did development start? When will the game be ready?
  • Why will consumers care? Why will they stop playing another game to play this one?

Bring a budget breakdown

A budget breakdown can show investors and publishers that you've thought your game through and explain how hard you've already worked and how much you’ve already invested. Just avoid round numbers or general figures — these won't demonstrate that you've done any meaningful homework. Need help deciding what kind of budget you require? This detailed pitching blog can help.

Develop pitching endurance

Most of your pitches will be rejected, and that’s just how things are. Funding sources receive more pitches than they can afford to produce. But with a strong pitch, you can maximize your impact and possibly receive feedback that will help you refine and continue pitching elsewhere. 

Focus

Highlight the most important aspects of your game to help your pitch recipient understand why it can succeed with an audience. This will show any potential partners that you are committed to completing your game at a high level. Presenting several high concepts or gameplay elements at once can confuse your audience and make you and your pitch seem disorganized. Explain your game's genre, gameplay, and intended audience, and support each with multimedia. Your game's story, characters, and other details should be briefly explained but always in service to these other core areas.

Create exciting multimedia

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to a highly visual medium like video games, they may be worth even more. Be sure to capture gameplay footage and stills that are eye-catching and memorable and tell your game's story. GIFs can also come in handy.

Be persistent

Deals don't grow on trees, so be prepared to pitch and pitch constantly. Remember that you can pitch anywhere; a trade show, a meeting, and of course, remotely on demand. Be ready to present your ideas effectively every time with a pitch that works as well in person as it does on a video call. 

Be confident, but contextual

You want your submission to be taken seriously. You don’t need to have the best game out there to receive fair consideration. Be careful about what games you may compare yours to, and avoid putting down other titles to make yours look superior. Pitch your game on its own merits. Be honest and accurate; it will reflect upon your credibility and reputation.

Preparation is critical

Know your pitch. If you bump into a person who can help you publish your game, you need to be ready. Know how to describe the best elements of your game. Always have an efficient description in mind. Mention your development team and how far along you are in development. Leave anyone you're pitching with a few simple reasons why your game is worthy. During an elevator ride, you might have only 20 or 30 seconds to leave an impression. If you can distill your game's value into that much time, you’ll be ready to pitch efficiently anywhere.

Listen, listen and listen

Different funding sources may have defined pitching or submission standards. Raw Fury, for example, has a great page that shows developers precisely what they expect from a pitch. Do your research. Some funding sources will tell you how you should pitch to them, so check their websites to see if they offer advice or if they have any special requirements. If they ask for a 300-word paragraph containing an explanation of your game, then that is precisely what you need to provide. Follow instructions to ensure your pitch gets seen.

Timing is everything

Pitching a publisher on a bad day at the wrong time might color your response. Be tactical. It is essential to pitch funding sources when they are the most receptive to your ideas. A quick meeting on the phone may not be the right time to make your pitch. Ask for your intended audience's preferred pitching time and then strike while the iron's hot.

Be patient

Give investors time to review your pitch before following up, asking if they need any additional information or materials to help them evaluate your game. You can also ask for a timeline for their potential decision. If you don’t hear anything from them after this initial follow-up, industry veterans recommend waiting a week and reaching out again.

Publishers to avoid

Do not sign deals with parties that won't put money toward your game's development, marketing, or publicity. These "investors" and "publishers" may make vague promises in exchange for a significant revenue split, but these deals ultimately aren't worth pursuing for every financial, creative, and ethical reason.

Pitching remotely

In some cases, a developer might not schedule face-to-face meetings or find publishing partners at trade shows or conferences. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has effectively demonstrated that you can still move forward with pitching remotely. Just be sure to optimize your pitch for a virtual presentation and make your pitch viewable offline to ensure your audience can consider it offline. Streaming a trailer over a video call, for example, can result in annoying buffering that can take your audience out of your pitch.

Stills and other visuals, however, are easier to present directly. Practice your remote pitch over the most common video conference platforms with friends or family before meeting with funding sources so you can optimize your pitch and navigate each interface without confusion.

Emails

Just like your elevator pitch, your emails should be concise and personalized — never bulk email funding sources; always do your research and email the person in charge of reviewing pitches directly. Introduce yourself and your game in 1-2 crisp sentences explaining your game's working title, genre, intended launch platform or platforms, and where your game is in development. 

Provide external links to your pitch and any other essential multimedia materials you want to show them, and avoid attaching documents unless requested. Don’t look unprofessional by clogging your recipient's inbox with large files. Make it as easy as possible to view your pitch and any other links in one click. Be sure to tell the publisher what you're looking for in a partnership - specifically how much money you need to complete your game for its intended platform or platforms. 

Presentations

Let your game's visual assets do the majority of the talking. Keep your pitch simple and easy to read by avoiding an over-designed presentation with large chunks of text. If you need to communicate data, use infographics and charts. 

Conclusion 

Pitching is one of the most crucial steps in getting your game published. A robust and well-timed pitch (with a solid game to match) can significantly improve your chances of securing a funding source. 

For your pitch:

  • Be genuine. Bring the best representation of your game and your abilities as a developer, and be honest about how a funding source's resources might mean a finished product. Be professional. Be clear and concise and actively listen to and internalize any feedback, positive or negative, you might receive.
  • Pitch with a playable version of your game. If you don’t have a playable prototype yet, present the work you've done so far with enough concept art and stills to provide a realistic preview of your vision for the game.
  • Know your audience. Research the funding sources, their specialties, which games they’ve published, which were successful, and which games underperformed. Certain publishers only publish certain kinds of games from certain types of developers.

Most importantly: be resilient. Continuously pitch and refine your pitch based on feedback. Update your pitch with every iteration of your game. Make an effort to evolve and polish your pitching skills and game to get the most out of each opportunity to present your work to funding sources.

As Justin “Dark Yoda” Berenbaum, a video game industry veteran and Xsolla’s Vice President of Strategy, illustrated in Part 1 and Part 2 of his video game pitching series on VentureBeat, quality games with quality pitches stand the best chance of getting funded.

Are you ready to get your pitch in front of investors and publishers actively searching for games like yours? Xsolla Funding Club can help. Apply today to have your game considered for our no-cost matching service for serious developers and funding sources. Not quite ready to pitch? Join Xsolla Diamond Club to access the industry events and collaborative networking opportunities that can help you prepare.

Creating a good game requires a good idea, a professional development team that can fully realize its potential, and some amount of funding to see the project to completion. Successful companies can make this seem like a matter of course, but for indie developers, just getting started, it's a journey of a thousand steps. If you’re seeking investment money, the first step is to create an impactful pitch worthy of showing to a funding source.

Funding sources

To target your preferred funding source, you'll first need to identify what you want from them. Is funding at the top of your list? Promotion and marketing? Put together a list of potential funding sources to see what services they offer. Make sure you evaluate their revenue split and how much control they want, as these can be contentious or even deal-breakers for many developers.

Certain funding sources are better suited for specific projects. Some may prioritize games of a particular genre, while others focus on team size. Devolver Digital primarily works with indie developers, for example.


Before you pitch your game, you need to be able to answer these questions: 

  • Do you have a clear vision for your game?
  • Do you know what makes your game unique?
  • What will make funding sources pay attention to your game? 
  • What are your team's strengths and weaknesses? 
  • Can you realize your game's intended level of quality?

To create a good pitch, a developer needs to know the answers to these questions. They all will factor into your pitch's overall quality, so they deserve careful consideration. 

Publishers 

A game publisher finances a video game’s development, handles its marketing and release, and expects some return or revenue share on their investment. In other words, if an aspect of game development has anything to do with the business side of things, the publisher will likely handle it, freeing you and your team to focus on your game.

Some of the many companies that specialize in working with indie developers include:

Companies like Limited Run Games and iam8bit specialize in releasing physical copies and collector’s editions of select games.


One of the most significant benefits of having a publisher is handling all of your game's marketing. They create social media posts, manage community outreach, research and target different audiences with ads, and so on. Most developers don't have time for this side of the video game business, making publishers welcome partners.

Working with a publisher also means that they provide funding for your game. You won’t have to pay out of pocket for salaries, assets, freelance artists, etc. You will, however, have to share your game's earnings with the publisher once it is released.

The disadvantage of using a publisher is that they won’t always promote you and your team as developers, just your game. Establishing your brand or community can make it more challenging, as your releases will likely be associated more with the publisher.

Publishers can also take a substantial share of your revenue —  anywhere from 20% to 70% — and, in some cases, they will want to recoup their investment 100% before sharing any revenue.

Also, be aware that a publisher may want to have a say in the creative process, and often, what they say goes. This is why you should thoroughly review and negotiate — and then have a lawyer review on your behalf — any contractual agreements before signing on. Sacrificing creative control could be a deal-breaker for you.

Investors 

Video game investors and publishers prefer strong teams. They value leadership, a reliable business model, and a capable group. Investors don’t typically fund solo game developers; they opt to back small game studios. 

To interest an investor, the game studio will need some background in the gaming industry. Embed yourself in the industry, attend virtual or in-person events, participate in online forums, do your research, forge personal connections, and build the best prototype possible. Look for investors that have a history of funding games like yours. Use sites like LinkedIn and MicroVentures to discover investors. Game Seer and other angel investors may be worth pitching, depending on what kind of game you're creating. 

In many cases, partnering with an investor means giving up equity in the studio. The investor will get some of your company shares, and they might also want a chair with your team to influence certain decisions. At the very least, they will want to be kept informed on your progress and any other agreed-upon information at a regular cadence. 

Most investors aren’t as involved as publishers, so you will have more freedom to make your own decisions as a developer. This is one reason why investors search for organized teams and studios with business and marketing knowledge. They want to make sure their money is in safe hands. Their money will then give the developer the resources to market a financially successful game. So an investor won’t just be investing in your game; they’ll be investing in you and your team.

Platforms 

Platforms are manufacturers of the hardware and software that a game runs on, such as Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo. They tend to prefer tighter control over what games they sponsor and feature, which means they’re very concerned about quality. Some developers pitch directly to platform holders because they want to develop certain platform-specific features or simply be sure that their game will come out as polished as possible.

Tighter control means more restrictions, which may be too much for many development teams to handle. To create and sell games on many console platforms, developers must have specific licenses, permissions, and SDKs, many of which are expensive and time-consuming to get. However, this is much easier than it used to be. Compare this to the PC platform, which is open to anyone.

While dev kits and SDKs can be expensive, that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to obtain. Read more about getting dev kits in our previous feature.

What to include in your pitch

A modern pitch should speak to investors and publishers on their level. Excite them with your game and vision, but always address their practical business concerns. The bottom line is you need to appeal to their bottom line. Our industry veterans have extremely practical advice on what to include to ensure your pitch is taken seriously.

Prepare an elevator pitch

While it can be tempting to gush about your game, it's essential to crystalize your message. Consider how brief commercials are — anywhere from 8-30 seconds — they're effectively elevator pitches for products and services. Your elevator pitch is effectively a commercial for your in-development game. Embrace the brevity.

Use GIFs

These files have become ubiquitous for a reason: they condense video into instantly digestible moments. You can easily liven your presentations with your best gameplay in the form of quick GIFs.

Provide a prototype

A first playable, vertical slice or other prototypes can make a huge difference in how a potential investor sees your game, but it needs to be fun right out of the gate. Prototypes don't have to look as polished as a final release, but be ready to bring the fun.

Show gameplay videos

If you have a prototype, give potential investors even more of your best gameplay to look forward to. Impress them with where you're headed with well-cut, high-resolution footage of your game in action.

Answer the big questions with a presentation deck

Tell investors and publishers what they need to know in 10-12 slides by answering:

  • Who are you and your team? Who is the game for?
  • What is the game? What platforms do you want to publish on? What will it cost? What engine is the game built-in?
  • Where is the audience for this game? Which 3-5 current games are they playing?
  • When did development start? When will the game be ready?
  • Why will consumers care? Why will they stop playing another game to play this one?

Bring a budget breakdown

A budget breakdown can show investors and publishers that you've thought your game through and explain how hard you've already worked and how much you’ve already invested. Just avoid round numbers or general figures — these won't demonstrate that you've done any meaningful homework. Need help deciding what kind of budget you require? This detailed pitching blog can help.

Develop pitching endurance

Most of your pitches will be rejected, and that’s just how things are. Funding sources receive more pitches than they can afford to produce. But with a strong pitch, you can maximize your impact and possibly receive feedback that will help you refine and continue pitching elsewhere. 

Focus

Highlight the most important aspects of your game to help your pitch recipient understand why it can succeed with an audience. This will show any potential partners that you are committed to completing your game at a high level. Presenting several high concepts or gameplay elements at once can confuse your audience and make you and your pitch seem disorganized. Explain your game's genre, gameplay, and intended audience, and support each with multimedia. Your game's story, characters, and other details should be briefly explained but always in service to these other core areas.

Create exciting multimedia

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to a highly visual medium like video games, they may be worth even more. Be sure to capture gameplay footage and stills that are eye-catching and memorable and tell your game's story. GIFs can also come in handy.

Be persistent

Deals don't grow on trees, so be prepared to pitch and pitch constantly. Remember that you can pitch anywhere; a trade show, a meeting, and of course, remotely on demand. Be ready to present your ideas effectively every time with a pitch that works as well in person as it does on a video call. 

Be confident, but contextual

You want your submission to be taken seriously. You don’t need to have the best game out there to receive fair consideration. Be careful about what games you may compare yours to, and avoid putting down other titles to make yours look superior. Pitch your game on its own merits. Be honest and accurate; it will reflect upon your credibility and reputation.

Preparation is critical

Know your pitch. If you bump into a person who can help you publish your game, you need to be ready. Know how to describe the best elements of your game. Always have an efficient description in mind. Mention your development team and how far along you are in development. Leave anyone you're pitching with a few simple reasons why your game is worthy. During an elevator ride, you might have only 20 or 30 seconds to leave an impression. If you can distill your game's value into that much time, you’ll be ready to pitch efficiently anywhere.

Listen, listen and listen

Different funding sources may have defined pitching or submission standards. Raw Fury, for example, has a great page that shows developers precisely what they expect from a pitch. Do your research. Some funding sources will tell you how you should pitch to them, so check their websites to see if they offer advice or if they have any special requirements. If they ask for a 300-word paragraph containing an explanation of your game, then that is precisely what you need to provide. Follow instructions to ensure your pitch gets seen.

Timing is everything

Pitching a publisher on a bad day at the wrong time might color your response. Be tactical. It is essential to pitch funding sources when they are the most receptive to your ideas. A quick meeting on the phone may not be the right time to make your pitch. Ask for your intended audience's preferred pitching time and then strike while the iron's hot.

Be patient

Give investors time to review your pitch before following up, asking if they need any additional information or materials to help them evaluate your game. You can also ask for a timeline for their potential decision. If you don’t hear anything from them after this initial follow-up, industry veterans recommend waiting a week and reaching out again.

Publishers to avoid

Do not sign deals with parties that won't put money toward your game's development, marketing, or publicity. These "investors" and "publishers" may make vague promises in exchange for a significant revenue split, but these deals ultimately aren't worth pursuing for every financial, creative, and ethical reason.

Pitching remotely

In some cases, a developer might not schedule face-to-face meetings or find publishing partners at trade shows or conferences. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has effectively demonstrated that you can still move forward with pitching remotely. Just be sure to optimize your pitch for a virtual presentation and make your pitch viewable offline to ensure your audience can consider it offline. Streaming a trailer over a video call, for example, can result in annoying buffering that can take your audience out of your pitch.

Stills and other visuals, however, are easier to present directly. Practice your remote pitch over the most common video conference platforms with friends or family before meeting with funding sources so you can optimize your pitch and navigate each interface without confusion.

Emails

Just like your elevator pitch, your emails should be concise and personalized — never bulk email funding sources; always do your research and email the person in charge of reviewing pitches directly. Introduce yourself and your game in 1-2 crisp sentences explaining your game's working title, genre, intended launch platform or platforms, and where your game is in development. 

Provide external links to your pitch and any other essential multimedia materials you want to show them, and avoid attaching documents unless requested. Don’t look unprofessional by clogging your recipient's inbox with large files. Make it as easy as possible to view your pitch and any other links in one click. Be sure to tell the publisher what you're looking for in a partnership - specifically how much money you need to complete your game for its intended platform or platforms. 

Presentations

Let your game's visual assets do the majority of the talking. Keep your pitch simple and easy to read by avoiding an over-designed presentation with large chunks of text. If you need to communicate data, use infographics and charts. 

Conclusion 

Pitching is one of the most crucial steps in getting your game published. A robust and well-timed pitch (with a solid game to match) can significantly improve your chances of securing a funding source. 

For your pitch:

  • Be genuine. Bring the best representation of your game and your abilities as a developer, and be honest about how a funding source's resources might mean a finished product. Be professional. Be clear and concise and actively listen to and internalize any feedback, positive or negative, you might receive.
  • Pitch with a playable version of your game. If you don’t have a playable prototype yet, present the work you've done so far with enough concept art and stills to provide a realistic preview of your vision for the game.
  • Know your audience. Research the funding sources, their specialties, which games they’ve published, which were successful, and which games underperformed. Certain publishers only publish certain kinds of games from certain types of developers.

Most importantly: be resilient. Continuously pitch and refine your pitch based on feedback. Update your pitch with every iteration of your game. Make an effort to evolve and polish your pitching skills and game to get the most out of each opportunity to present your work to funding sources.

As Justin “Dark Yoda” Berenbaum, a video game industry veteran and Xsolla’s Vice President of Strategy, illustrated in Part 1 and Part 2 of his video game pitching series on VentureBeat, quality games with quality pitches stand the best chance of getting funded.

Are you ready to get your pitch in front of investors and publishers actively searching for games like yours? Xsolla Funding Club can help. Apply today to have your game considered for our no-cost matching service for serious developers and funding sources. Not quite ready to pitch? Join Xsolla Diamond Club to access the industry events and collaborative networking opportunities that can help you prepare.

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