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5 Mar 2014

Perfecting Your Indie Game’s ‘Elevator Pitch’

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Are you prepared to sell the idea of your indie game to anyone that you meet? Are you seriously able to describe every important facet of your game to anyone (and I mean anyone) in less than two minutes? Do you have the ability to force a smile to come across anyone’s face by the time you are finished describing the game?

It’s a tall order, isn’t it? To be able to pitch your game to anyone instantaneously and have them walk away excited and smiling about your indie game seems like something only the most charismatic developers in the world can pull off, but you’re wrong. These people use a technique called the ‘elevator pitch,’ and by perfecting your elevator pitch, you too will be able to sell anyone on the very idea behind your game.

So what is it? An elevator pitch is pretty simple; in the time span between getting onto an elevator and getting off (between 30 seconds and two minutes depending on how tall the building is/how busy it is), you should be able to pitch anyone on the concept of your game. From there, they should have your interest and should be excited to purchase your game.

So why develop an elevator pitch at all?

It’s a good question. When you have to pitch your game to someone, most of the time you will probably be warned ahead of time. For instance, if you are meeting with a prospective publisher, someone interviewing you, etc. Yet, what about if you are at a convention and someone walks up to you and asks you to pitch your game to them? What if a journalist walks up to you out of nowhere and says, “hey, what can you tell me about your game?” It happens – I know, I’ve done it to developers before.

Thus, you don’t want to be left stammering and stuttering:

“Well, uhh, you know umm, our game is hmmm….”

Don’t let that be you. You need to respond with confidence, with a quick summary covering every facet of your game, and be able to allow the individual to walk away fully knowing what the game is about and actually be a little intrigued by it. There is a reason why the best salespeople, politicians, and even evangelists use elevator pitches on a regular basis. It’s a great way to get your point across quickly and efficiently – and here’s how to do it.

Avoid Jargon

Let me tell you – the gaming industry is so full of jargon it borders on insanity. There are so many terms thrown away in normal conversation that it’s almost vomit inducing. Your elevator pitch needs to be free of any instance of jargon, and by doing so your game will actually seem fresh and relevant.

Here’s an example: if you are developing a F2P MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena for those unfamiliar) game with new, weekly IAPs, don’t say it like that. Look at that sentence: how full of jargon is that? Besides, what does it tell the person you are communicating with, anyway?

Instead, describe the concept of the game, and feel free to mention the game will be updated with new content on a weekly basis. Your elevator pitch should be able to tell the person that, yes, this is a F2P MOBA – yet, it’s worthy of your attention. Leaving out the jargon will accomplish exactly that. Describe the game without jargon. Is it difficult? Absolutely, but it’s the first step in accurately describing your game.

How will the game affect the player?

You described the synopsis of the game – now it’s time to focus on how the game will affect the player. Instead of using weak phrases such as, “we offer hours of gameplay,” or “our graphics rival the best in the mobile marketplace,” include the player when describing how the game will affect the player. For example, if you want to mention how many hours of gameplay your game offers, state, “players will experience hours of exciting, competitive gameplay…” and then describe the game a little further (e.g. the world of the game, the gameplay mechanics, etc.).

By using the player in your elevator pitch, you are showing one important quality: during the course of development, you have always kept the player in mind. Furthermore, you are showing that the player is so important to you, that they are central to the pitch of your game and the success it is going to have. Elementary rules of game design to be certain, but you need to prove it.

Why is your game better than others in your genre?

This is ‘make or break’ time for your pitch. You have avoided jargon in your opening pitch and described how the game will affect players – now it’s time to prove to listeners why your game is better than those in your niche. Using the example of an F2P MOBA game again, you need to tell the listener what makes your game stand out from other MOBA games. Don’t name drop other games in your genre (in this example, League of Legends or DOTA 2) as the listener will automatically compare your game to the titans of your genre and simply see you as someone that is trying to mimic their success, thus becoming instantly uninterested.

Instead, briefly describe how other popular games in your genre are approaching the genre itself, and discuss how you are different.

“Other games are doing this, but we believe that by doing this, the player will have a better overall experience.”

Of course, this phrase is a template. Use it to describe exactly why your game stands out from the rest of the games in your genre. Give a quick example if you wish, but before ending the pitch, be sure you have told the listeners exactly what makes your game so unique without mentioning any games by their names.

After you have perfected one elevator pitch, try to create a few more. Believe me: not every elevator pitch is going to work for every person. Craft a few different elevator pitches for different types of people, and be instantly prepared whenever they ask you about your game. Practice giving your pitch in a mirror, record yourself, pitch it to your colleagues, and perfect it. It may not seem important now, but at your next convention? It is going to be an invaluable tool.

Do you have any tips for perfecting elevator pitches? Let us know in the comments below!

2 Responses

  1. babamau5

    Absolutely GREAT article. Thank you for posting this because it really confirms all the things i wasnt sure about, and tells you simply what to include and what not to.

    I was wondering if you have an article about a proper pitch. Like suppose you get past this stage, now when the developers call you do you have any ideas on how to pitch then? Also about free to play games such as Clash of Clans and Boom Beach?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Dusty

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it and it helped you! I don’t think I have written any articles about what to do after the elevator pitch, though that’s a great idea. I never really followed up on the elevator pitch topic, so that would definitely be worth writing about later on (maybe this week?).

      As for F2P games, I actually wrote about that topic this week.

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