[FIELD NOTES] IGDATC September | From Publisher Pitch to Signing


Game developers gathered for the monthly meeting of the International Game Developers Association: Twin Cities (IGDA Twin Cities) at The Nerdery in Bloomington on September 12.

The topics of the night focused on procedurally generated multiplayer games and the process of working with publishers from the initial pitch through game release. Terrance Schubring discussed his work with Jambots and August Brown of Kongregate gave his best advice for securing a publisher and making the most of that relationship.

The Member Project for the evening was an examination of the Terrance Schubring’s process for creating a procedurally generated multiplayer game easy enough for anyone to play. Building on his work in the music education app sector, he was feeling restless and wanted to shake up his resume. Inspired by battle royale games like PUBG and Fortnite, his goal was an island combat zone that was different each game. Striving for simplicity, he utilized sine waves to create a raster height and color map, applying a triangle mesh to smooth movement over a 512 x 512 x 256 grid.

The resulting game is called Jambots and it’s played on any device with a camera. Creating a random map for every game, the page displays a QR code that users can scan to join in a tank battle using touch or key controls. More information and an explanation of the process can be found at jambots.com.

The night’s Main Presentation featured August Brown of Kongregate, a game publisher that specializes in free-to-play online games. He began by explaining what a publisher is–a knowledge resource, a believer in your game’s vision, and someone with critical connections– and what it is not–a soulless checkbook or a game design panacea. When looking for a potential publisher, Brown stresses the importance of finding a complimentary portfolio and shared ideals. While publishers are usually a value add, they aren’t always necessary. Because they take a cut of the revenue, Brown urges developers to really examine whether or not they could self-publish, a process that has never been easier.

When working on the pitch, it’s important to stay focused, says Brown. Making sure the game is good, honing in on the developer story, and leading with distinguishing features are critical components of the pitch. Describe the game, edit for specific publishers, and share the team’s traction and press thus far. While waiting to hear back, ask good follow up questions and continue to radiate enthusiasm about the game. If the publisher says yes, be very careful when signing a contract–if someone is uncomfortable with any terms, the publisher can change them. Nothing is set in stone and both parties can walk away. Brown reminds developers to ask follow-up questions if a publisher says no. “Maybe the game is bad. Maybe they are the wrong publisher. Maybe you don’t need a publisher. There are many reasons for rejection, so find out what they are,” recommends Brown. His final piece of advice was that “no” isn’t forever. The initial pitch may result in contracts later, so be persistent.

The International Game Developers Association Twin Cities chapter meets on the second Wednesday of every month at the Nerdery; next meetup is October 10th at Surly.