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How to Pitch a Game to Publishers and Get Accepted (An Insider’s Perspective)

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Johan Toresson

Johan Toresson

From selling nail polish and rat poison to fish mongering and food delivery, Johan went from odd jobs to an odd career in games. Through games incubators, triple helix organizations, running festivals and traveling 150 days a year he's now ended up at Raw Fury as the Head Scouting, where he helps find the games you will enjoy in 24 months. You can taunt him for being a junkrat main on Twitter.

At the time of writing, I’ve officially and unofficially gone over thousands of pitches, yet only around 35 were a good fit for the work we do at Raw Fury.

I joke that my job is to say no as quickly (and helpfully) as possible while keeping my eyes open for those 0.02-0.05% of the projects that actually stick the landing. The ones that really resonate with me, the rest of the crew, and our plans for the future.

As a developer you can’t change me or what I enjoy, so it’s often hard to know what a publisher wants and nearly impossible to know their 3 to 5-year plans. What’s left in your hands? The Game, and the Pitch.

I can’t tell you jack shit about how to make your game, but I hope that by the end of this article, you’ll feel like you have a better understanding of the Pitch—what it does, what it doesn’t, and why, for the most part, it won’t actually matter that much.

By the way, if you have any questions as you read this post, feel free to ask in the Funsmith Club Discord where you can seek advice and network with game devs of all levels including me.

You can also get notified on exclusive game design tips, workshops, and guides (like this one) here 👇

What is a Game Pitch?

When you’re pitching your game to a publisher, you might be…

  • Showing off your PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation deck
  • Taking a quick call
  • Shouting over the music in some weird venue where you happened upon a scout (someone who finds projects for the company they represent)

As you can see, a pitch can be many things, but the key point to remember is that you’re trying to sell something to someone.

For the sake of clarity, this article will stick with the most common type of pitch I hear and interact with at Raw Fury: The Deck and Build.

So, How Do You Pitch Your Game Effectively?

Pitching your game well essentially means that you have all your stuff together and it’s packaged in an easily digestible way.

There’s a secret method that I’ll go into at the end of this section, but that won’t matter if you don’t cover these basics:

  1. What are you doing?
  2. Why are you doing it?
  3. Who are you?
  4. Where do you want to go?
  5. What do you need to get there?
  6. How long will it take?

You could simply send me a deck with one slide for each question, a logo up front, contact info at the end, and be done with it. Sure, you can add more contextual bells and whistles like concept art, story snippets, a trailer, or some animated GIFs, but I mainly look for answers to the questions above.

Once you have a pitch deck that clearly answers all six key questions (and a banger of a build to back it up), it’s time to start pitching.

If you don’t know where to send these items, I recommend the following to get started:

Together, they cover just about every publisher I know and a couple I don’t.

Or you could always pitch Raw Fury right this minute, if that’s what you’re looking to do!

Important: Before you send your first email, make sure you’ve looked at these publishers’ websites and portfolios of games they’ve released to ensure that what you’re pitching is relevant.

For example, if you’re making a hyper-casual F2P mobile game with dark pattern monetization but pitching it to Devolver, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree.

List all the relevant publishers you’re going to pitch in your own Excel/Sheets document (or you could keep track with tools like Asana or Pipedrive).

I recommend going with headings like these that give you a quick overview of your pitches:

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You can use this simple Google Sheets template to track all your leads.

Now, let’s look at one random year at Raw Fury:

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The 1,000 to 1,500 “Informal” pitches we receive on an average year include things we look at online without necessarily engaging in conversation. These are pitches I can say no to before they hit our systems, and so on.

(And yes, your Screenshot Saturday post is essentially a micro-pitch.)

Those ~600 “Formal” pitches we receive annually are the ones that hit our internal systems with a full package (deck, build, budget, etc.) and are reviewed by our scouts.

Out of those, only about 30 projects make it into “wider” review, which means that we bring in more people to play the builds formally and discuss the projects.

In this particular year, we signed two games—roughly 0.2% of the projects we looked at.

Now, let’s get into the super secret method

Ready? Here it is. …Pitch everyone relevant  in that document.

Do it at the same time!

Why? Because publishers are slow-moving creatures. You might be stuck waiting weeks (or months) for a reply. Pitching them one by one will ensure that you run out of cash and crash and burn before you even get started.

It’s a surprisingly common mistake for folks to not just immediately pitch things around, instead choosing to wait for one or a few to come back with answers.

Don’t do that. Look at that graph up there. That should be motivating you.

No publisher worth their salt is worried that you’re pitching multiple pubs at once, and the good ones will tell you to do so if you aren’t already. At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game—so play it like one.

Pitch every relevant publisher. At The Same Time. Good? Good.

Here’s how to get started with your game pitch deck:

We touched on the questions your deck needs to answer previously, so how do you make that happen in practice?

Luckily, you don’t need to start from scratch or go in any particular order.

The Pitch Deck by Raw Fury is a very basic, fast and dirty deck that does the job. Here is the TL;DR slide that summarizes everything:

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Gwen Foster’s Pitch Deck is part deck and part tutorial. It’s also slightly more involved than the RF deck above, but essentially answers the same questions.

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(Template from the same Pitch Deck by Gwen Foster)

There are many options, and you can organize stuff however you wish, but there’s no great benefit or magic trick here. If you’ve included all the important info and it’s legible and up to date, you’re good to go.

The game build

This is it. The heart of your pitch. We’ve talked a lot about decks until now, but the thing is…no matter how good a deck is, it can’t save a bad build (aka your playable game prototype).

Remember: If the actual game doesn’t manage to sell itself to the publisher, the deck is meaningless.

The vast majority of publishers won’t invest in a pitch without a playable build, unless you have an abundance of credibility from shipping successful games already.

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(Here’s how your game pitch pipeline will look)

You may get a very limited amount of attention from the person reviewing your deck, which means the whole point of a good deck is to inspire them to commit more attention to playing your build.

So make sure your deck provides enough info for the reviewers to draft a quick case for signing or not signing the game.

Next, what does a build need to do?

What do publishers want in a build?

Tricky questions.

Luckily, I’ve done this before, so I’ll be cheeky and quote myself from the “How to pitch Raw Fury” page I wrote a couple of years back:

“We want a build that you feel conveys the essence of what you’re trying to make in a good way. That might be exceptionally tight movement mechanics in a white-boxed level…one brilliant sequence of puzzles, dressed in art that’s close to where you want the full game to be… Or it might be something else entirely. The important part here is that you’re sharing what you feel confidently shows off what you’re doing and where you want to go.”

This means that what we, as publishers, want from a build will likely differ from what you want, depending on what your goals are with the game.

Just don’t skimp on the stuff that players will be doing 90% of the time. If you’re making a game based on movement but moving around doesn’t feel good, that makes me worry that you aren’t focusing on the right things (like your core gameplay loop, core mechanics and other game mechanics).

Imagine Super Mario Bros. level 1-1, except you walk like you’re in quicksand and your jump is absolute dogshit. You’d quit the game right then and there.

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(From Supper Mario Broth)

That said, here are a few things to keep in mind for your build:

Tip 1: Don’t worry if there’s some jank or stuff you’re not as proud of in areas that aren’t core to the experience.

After all, we aren’t releasing exactly what you’re pitching. We’re just trying to discern what this game will feel like in 12-24 months when it’s time to release it into the wild.

For example, if you’re making a platforming game, just make sure that the feeling of moving and jumping is fucking sublime, because that’s part of the core loop and you’ll be judged against the very best.

Tip 2: Make one screen or mockup that gives me a sense of the visual quality you’re heading toward.

Tip 3: Again, I can’t stress this enough, focus on the core things that matter for your game, and once those feel good, then it’s time to pitch it around! (To every relevant publisher. At The Same Time.)

Here are Some Game Pitch Examples to Reference

To start, here’s a great set of video game pitch decks with some familiar faces curated by GLITCH.

The best thing about this site is that it shows a wide variety of decks, spanning from the 1990s with the original Diablo (hardly a deck, but still contains most of the same information we look for today) to modern games like Backbone or Beacon Pines.

It gives you a good sense of what people focus on when they build their decks, but also shows that you don’t need to stress too much about all this.

Here is an example feature slide from Backbone’s pitch deck:

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Here is another example feature slide from Button City’s pitch deck:

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Baldur’s Gate III has a super-detailed pitch deck complete with individual character bios, market research, and even video footage:

bulders gate pitch deck

Want more inspiration? Here’s yet another good example of how to add extra flavor to your deck while still answering all the important questions, and a helpful follow-up discussion about why it works.

So, go your own way, and design it as you like—just make sure you put all the necessary info in there and keep it as attention efficient as possible!

These Tips Will Help You Perfect Your Game Pitch

Use this mix of best practices and generally helpful tips for builds, decks, and other related things to help you tweak your pitch until it’s juuuust right.

Good ideas:

  • Pitch everyone relevant At The Same Time.
  • If it’s a linear game, put save states into the game and tie them to F1-F10, allowing me to quickly move between the important parts (if the build is longer than 20 or so minutes).
  • If it’s a non-linear game, use those F1-F10 save states to show off different scenarios and variations that I might not run into on my first few playthroughs.
  • Add English subtitles if the language spoken isn’t English.
  • Include the control scheme (either a menu option or PDF is fine).
  • Always get legal counsel to read the contracts you’re looking to sign. Always.
  • If you’re pitching at conferences, please send decks with the meeting request. That way, if the scout accepts the meeting, you know there’s already some initial interest and neither of you will be wasting your time. It also allows you to talk about the pitch, rather than doing a presentation for 15 minutes then scurrying off because you’re late to the next meeting.
  • Compare yourself with the best of your genre. Take a critical look at your thing, then their thing, and assess your weaknesses and strengths honestly. This shows you understand not only what you’re making, but also what made those games great, and how yours relates to them.

Bad ideas:

  • Not doing your homework. If it says we don’t do X genre, platform, etc., we don’t. We’re not a great fit for F2P match 3 puzzlers with hardcore IAP monetization, so if you pitch that and say you think it’s a great fit, it shows you haven’t done enough research.
  • Unclear financial details. Just…USD. Budgets. Please. You don’t want me to do math and currency conversions. That will end in tears.
  • Putting unskippable stuff in your builds. No scout enjoys sitting through 20 minutes of exposition four times in a day. (I’ll watch your cinematic or read your text if it’s a core part of the experience, but after that, I’ll most likely just skip to the part I want to show my co-workers.)
  • Packing everything into your first build. It doesn’t need everything from the final release. When Out of the Blue pitched Call of the Sea, they built a bespoke tiny part of an island with a string of puzzles and narrative objects to convey the overall mood and design. They got signed. There’s almost nothing from that build in the final release, but their design intent runs through both.
  • Disorienting the player. Okay, this is extremely nitpicky, but…please add an “invert y-axis” option if you aren’t going to do it the right way to begin with.

If you want to learn more about what not to do, here’s another industry veteran’s list, full of nuggets of wisdom like “Look at how the original Star Wars begins” and “I don’t give a crap about your inventory system”:

Lingering Game Pitch Questions I Haven’t Addressed Yet:

Why won’t they sign my game, even though the publisher/investor thinks it’s great and will make a fuckton of cash?

This is the worst part, but sometimes it’s just…not a good fit. I’ve said no to some brilliant games because Raw Fury wasn’t a good fit for that particular project. It might also be a lack of funding, internal bandwidth, or release slots (other games already releasing around when yours would). Most of the time, the build just didn’t convince the publisher that you can hold your own against the best in the genre.

Pitch deck, pitch build, pitch document, pitch presentation, pitch package…WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!

Look, all industries have their jargon, and sometimes it gets a bit more confusing than it needs to be.

  • A pitch deck is one type of pitch document you should use, but the concept art of a GDD (game design document) can also be a key part of the package you send to a publisher.
  • A pitch package is just a fancy name for the ZIP file that contains all your pitch documents, images, builds, and budgets.
  • A pitch presentation can either be an actual presentation of your pitch, or just a weird way of saying “pitch deck”.
  • The pitch build is…well, your build of the game that you include with the pitch documents in the pitch package and send out after the pitch presentation to the publisher you’re pitching. …I think I made it worse. Don’t worry—with a good build and a readable pitch deck, you’re halfway there.

How long should your game pitch be?

About 10-15 slides. If you’re presenting, adapt to the circumstances, but pitches usually don’t go over 20 minutes. Get to the point where you can talk with the person you’re pitching to, not at them.

What experience do you need to be considered for funding by publishers and investors?

Depends on the publishers and investors. Raw Fury has signed a lot of first-time developers, so if you have a strong build and a good head on your shoulders, you can get far enough to get signed. That said, having released games previously gives you a big advantage, as it shows you can put something together and finish it. It also gives you an understanding of what goes into marketing and publishing a game.

And…that’s it! You now know everything there is to know about creating a ridiculously appealing pitch to get publishers’ attention. Just remember to include everything we talked about, make sure your build is fun but not overstuffed, and pitch everyone—say it with me—At The Same Time.

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EXPERIENCE & BACKGROUND:

[STUDIO] Blizzard Entertainment: Content, mechanics, and systems designer

(Creator of Apex Legends & former Creative Director at Respawn)

[GAME] World of Warcraft: MMORPG with 8.5 million average monthly players, won Gamer’s Choice Award – Fan Favorite MMORPG, VGX Award for Best PC Game, Best RPG, and Most Addictive Video Game.

  • Classic:
    • Designed Cosmos UI
    • Designed part of Raid Team for Naxxramas
  • Burning Crusade:
    • Designed the raid bosses Karazhan, Black Temple, Zul’Aman
    • Designed the Outlands content
    • Designed The Underbog including bosses:
      • Hungarfen, Ghaz’an, Swamplord Musel’ik, and The Black Stalker
    • Designed the Hellfire Ramparts final bosses Nazan & Vazruden
    • Designed the Return to Karazhan bosses: Attumen the Huntsman, Big Bad Wolf, Shades of Aran, Netherspite, Nightbane
  • Wrath of the Lich King:
    • Designed quest content, events and PvP areas of Wintergrasp
    • Designed Vehicle system
    • Designed the Death Knight talent trees
    • Designed the Lord Marrowgar raid
  • Cataclysm:
    • Designed quest content
    • Designed Deathwing Overworld encounters
    • Designed Morchok and Rhyolith raid fights
  • Mists of Pandaria: 
    • Overhauled the entire Warlock class – Best player rated version through all expansion packs
    • Designed pet battle combat engine and scripted client scene

[GAME] StarCraft 2: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Diablo 3: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Overwatch: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Hearthstone: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[STUDIO] Riot Games: Systems designer, in-studio game design instructor

(Former Global Communications Lead for League of Legends)
(Former Technical Game Designer at Riot Games)

[GAME] League of Legends: Team-based strategy MOBA with 152 million average active monthly players, won The Game Award for Best Esports Game and BAFTA Best Persistent Game Award.

  • Redesigned Xerath Champion by interfacing with community
  • Reworked the support income system for season 4
  • Redesigned the Ward system
  • Assisted in development of new trinket system
  • Heavily expanded internal tools and features for design team
  • Improved UI indicators to improve clarity of allied behaviour

[OTHER GAMES] Under NDA: Developed multiple unreleased projects in R&D

Game Design Instructor: Coached and mentored associate designers on gameplay and mechanics

[STUDIO] Moon Studios: Senior game designer

(Former Lead Game Designer at Moon Studios)

[GAME] Ori & The Will of The Wisps: 2m total players (423k people finished it) with average 92.8/100 ratings by 23 top game rating sites (including Steam and Nintendo Switch).

  • Designed the weapon and Shard systems
  • Worked on combat balance
  • Designed most of the User Interface

[GAME] Unreleased RPG project

  • Designed core combat
  • High-level design content planning
  • Game systems design
  • Game design documentation
  • Gameplay systems engineering
  • Tools design
  • Photon Quantum implementation of gameplay

[VC FUNDED STARTUP] SnackPass: Social food ordering platform with 500k active users $400m+ valuation

[PROJECT] Tochi: Creative director (hybrid of game design, production and leading the product team)

  • Lead artists, engineers, and animators on the release the gamification system to incentivize long-term customers with social bonds and a shared experience through the app

[CONSULTING] Atomech: Founder / Game Design Consultant

[STUDIOS] Studio Pixanoh + 13 other indie game studios (under NDA):

  • Helped build, train and establish the design teams
  • Established unique combat niche and overall design philosophy
  • Tracked quality, consistency and feedback methods
  • Established company meeting structure and culture

Game Design Keynotes:

(Former Global Head of HR for Wargaming and Riot Games)
  • Tencent Studio
  • Wargaming
  • USC (University of Southern California)
  • RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology)
  • US AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association)
  • UFIEA (University of Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy)
  • West Gaming Foundation
  • Kyoto Computer Gakuin – Kyoto, Japan