Alderac Design Center- Elevator Pitch Contest: Lessons and Thoughts

We recently opened a new Facebook Group for Game Designers and Game Industry Creatives.  We welcome all industry talent to join the conversation.

Alderac Design Center

We started the Alderac Design Center for a few reasons.  

  1. I realized that there is a giant pool of talent out there to whom we are not talking. 
  2. I also realized that there is very little in the way of support and education for designers aspiring to get their games successfully published and ultimately sold to consumers.
  3. We have not found a continually reliable way to stay in contact with designers to schedule pitch meetings and to keep the wider audience of creatives updated about work opportunities with AEG.

It is an experiment that so far has worked very well.  We currently have 495 members and growing. To get things started in the forum, I set up an Elevator Pitch Contest.  The Rules: Put your best Elevator pitch (70 words or less) on the thread along with a maximum of one picture. I then asked the community to thumb the pitches they liked. I promised the top vote getters a chance to Skype pitch me their game.

It escalated quickly and we ended up with about 180 entries.  Big kudos to all of the community members who read all the pitches and made comments and gave their Thumbs.  I made comments on every pitch and have a few takeaways that might help designers when trying to get their foot in the door.

So what did we learn from the contest? 

  1. Know your audience. In this case you were pitching to game designers so we found that interesting mechanics got thumbed more often than other ideas. Even in an elevator pitch you want to edit for who is listening.
  2. It’s X meets Y….  This is the classic Elevator Pitch and it works.  What we found was that it works best when people actually connect with the games you are using as examples.  Many of the pitches used games I have never played or only played once long ago and that did not help.
  3. A picture is worth a 1000 words.  Good pictures helped, bad pictures hurt.  Pictures of sleek prototypes or interesting components got thumbs, pictures of an early hand cut prototype or off theme idea did not help.
  4. My most common note was… This sounds like many other games that already exist. You have to be able to clearly identify the cool nugget in your game that separates it from the tens of thousands of games on the market.  
  5. The Hook. My second most common note was… Needs a better hook. Similar to the answer above your Elevator Pitch needs to make me ask the next question; can I see it? how does that work?, etc. 

Everything about an Elevator Pitch is about getting the listener to ask the next question.  This skill is something every creative who is showing off their work to sell should work on.  We take hundreds of pitch meetings a year and they often are 30 minutes at a show. Many game designers have multiple games to show off and so we always say hit us with the Elevator Pitches and we will tell you which ones sound interesting.

If the Elevator Pitch before the actual pitch is not engaging it also affects our ability to engage in the pitch itself.  Imagine how tired we are at a show on Sunday after 75 pitch meetings. If your Elevator Pitch is not exciting we may have already checked out.  Not on purpose, but just due to exhaustion.  

Solving your Elevator Pitch means you have drilled down your idea/game to the core idea that will make it stand out and get a game buyer to take a look.

Join us at the Alderac Design Center. Our next contest will be about prototyping and we will use it to build a list of prototyping essentials that we will share with the group.  

Some of the top vote getters:

Marcus Phoenix- Octopus Chef

Players sit on the floor back-to-back-to-back-to-back to embody the legendary Octopus Chef!??

Octochef is a frantic, real-time, co-operative, sandwich-making game where each player represents the tentacles of the one and only octopus chef, who has risen from the deep to open up his seaside sandwich shop! Players work together to complete as many sandwiches as possible before time runs out!

Jonathan Gilmour-  Verbo City

VerboCity is a word building city building game of strategy and lexicographic knowledge. 

Designed to bridge the gap between folx who love word games and their partners who love strategy games. The longer the words you spell, the more tiles you get to move into your city as buildings. Building the right tiles is as important. Spell special words to earn awesome structures (a sports word to build the Stadium).

Chris Lawrence- Chronilogica

Chronologica: The only game played nonlinearly!

Throughout the game players table draft cards representing actions and slot them into a large timeline in front of them, hoping that later in the game they’ll be able to get the cards they need to actually resolve that action (losing points if they can’t). At the end, players run through everything they’ve “done” and hope their empire stands the strongest.

Tony Tran-  Dim Sum

Have you ever played a game where a lazy Susan is the main component?

In Dim Sum, players relax around a lazy Susan to offer bites to their friends. As in Chinese culture, you must encourage your friends to eat and only eat when offered food. Your goal is to bring the most sought after dish on the table. Now, sit back, and enjoy some Dim Sum!

Phil Amylon – It’s Dixit meets The Mind: 

Am I the One? is a cooperative game where everyone at the table has an identical picture – except maybe you! Using limited communication, can you figure out if you’re the one who’s been dealt a different image?

A Few Extra Thoughts

We’ve seen close to a thousand game pitches in the past 5 years. So we’ve gotten pretty good at quickly identifying a pitch that sounds likely to be worth considering. There are a few tips we can give designers to help them get over that first bar:
1: “My game is most like X”. Many designers are afraid to say this, and we are afraid to ask it. Everyone should lose these fears. There is very little new under the sun but there is a lot of cleverness in recycling good ideas. If you DON’T know what game your game is most like, it probably means you haven’t spent the time to understand the kinds of games that yours will be competing against.

2: “My game ends when…” We ask designers “how do you win” as a part of our standard interview. If your answer is “have the most victory points” please lead with “my game ends when X, and the player with the most victory points is the winner”.

3: Party games are hard to pitch. One of our internal references is our belief that some of our review team would not have selected Codenames for further discussion assuming that it was pitched to us in a rough prototype form. Pitching party games is extremely hard because often the best part of the game is external to the game – it’s the way people interact while they play. If you want to pitch a party game, think about how you can capture “the fun” in a face to face pitch meeting. That may be impossible. If so, either don’t pitch the game in that format, or bring some friends to help with the pitch. If you tell us that you want to pitch a party game and want to pitch it to us via a live stream with a party atmosphere, we’ll be receptive.

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