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Designer Publisher Speed Dating Best Practices

I have been asked several times to coach new designers on how to pitch at a Designer Publisher Speed Date. I’ve done a LOT of publisher speed date events, both as a designer and as an agent for a publisher. Below is some practical advice distilled from that experience.

To prep for this article I interviewed several publishers to see what they wanted to get out of a speed date pitch. This advice has been developed with those publisher requests in mind.

In the first 30-60 seconds of your pitch you should tell the publisher:

* Your name.  
You would be surprised how often designers often forget this one.

* Number of Players
The number of players your game supports. 

* Play time.
How long it takes to play. This helps the publisher get a sense of the weight of your game. Be realistic.

* Audience
What audience you are aiming for (casual players, tactical gamers, bearded Euro players).

* The Hook
What makes your game special or different from every other game on the market? There are tens of thousands of games out there and hundreds more come out every month. What makes your game stand out? What is unique compared to any other game? This is likely the MOST IMPORTANT thing you will say during your entire pitch.


In the second 60 seconds of your pitch you should tell the publisher:

How do you win the game?
What are the win conditions? What triggers the end of your game? 

What does a typical turn look like?
Don’t run through all the options and edge cases, give a concise example of a normal turn.


Other tips:

Do NOT use all the time allotted explaining the rules of the game. If the publisher wants to know all the rules, they will ask you or ask for a copy of the rules.

Do your homework on what publishers are looking for and what their existing lines are like. The list of publishers is posted ahead of speed date. Look them up and look at their games. Don’t go on and on about your 2 hour Euro game to a social games publisher. 

Be careful about comparing your game to other games. Some publishers find it helpful if you compare your mechanics to existing games so they can understand your game. “This game uses dice placement like in Kingsburg.” Other publishers do not like it when you compare your game to existing games. Referencing mechanics can help. “My game is better than game X” comparisons won’t help your pitch.

Know the component counts in your game. Your list of components should also be on your sell sheet. If the publisher asks you “How many cards are in this game”, you need to know the answer.

End your pitch before the time runs out and return some time to the publisher. You can use that remaining time to do one of three things:

I. Listen and Answer questions. 
End your pitch early and offer to answer questions. Let the publisher drive the conversation to what interests them.

II. Play a sample turn or round. 
Set up your game and advance it to the most exciting point of the game. Rig the hands, decks, and values to make for an exciting turn. Ask the publisher if they want to play a sample hand/round.

III. Get a lead. 
If the game is not a good fit for the publisher you are talking to (this is often the case), ask “Who should I show this game to?” That will give you an idea of what publishers you should focus on or approach. Not all publishers are at speed date. 

Lastly, if you have other published games, mention that so the publisher knows you understand the process and how the industry works. 


Perhaps I’ll see you across the table some day at a publisher speed dating event.

 

 John Shulters of Black Straw Games pitching like a Pro at Designer Publisher Speed Date.

John Shulters of Black Straw Games pitching like a Pro at Designer Publisher Speed Date.

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