Welcome to Dev Diary number 5 of Project NN! This time Momfus has been replaced to be able to finish Skyrim once for all, and it’s my turn to introduce myself: I’m Julia Villanueva; 2D artist and Business Manager at Crios Devs, lover of RPG and fangirl of Square Enix.
In this post I’ll discuss a topic that’s not directly related to the technical part of the game, but it’s part of the development of any indie project: the presentation of the project as a product and the search for investors in business meetings.
I assisted in representation of Críos Devs to BIG FESTIVAL, the most important event in Latin America, oriented to the development of video games. There, I was part of the business meetings and other activities offered by the festival; and the idea of this post is to give you an overview of the event and some recommendations to take when facing your first meetings with publishers. Although I don’t consider myself an expert in the subject and I still have a lot to learn, I hope you find useful my experience and maybe it helps you in some aspects of future business meetings.
I want to make clear that the following post it’s oriented to small studios, those that are starting to sell their products (or intend to do so) and are learning about it.
WHAT IS BIG FESTIVAL? SHOULD I GO?
In conclusion, Big Festival is an event of excellent quality, both for those seeking business, as for those who want to know and learn about the Latin American videogames industry. It may not be as useful if you are a developer who already has a solid contact base, but if you’re a team that is starting, it’s ideal as a training to confront international business rounds and with affordable prices.
Now that we know what the fair is about and before jumping into the decision on whether to participate or not, keep in mind that it’s always very enriching and interesting to participate in the fairs, since you can always make new contacts and meet possible investors, partners or people to work with, but it’s necessary to set goals to analyze whether the investment is worthwhile not only for the money, but for the TIME that should be invested.
Setting goals for the trip allows you to know what you need to take with you and what to be prepared for. For example, in our case the major objective was networking with potential investors interested in the project, so it was essential to have a presentation / video of the product to show at any time and place. If your goal is to simply learn you can relax in this aspect and better enjoy the expo or other activities.
So first tip: define your goals, and be prepared. Feeling confident is something super important especially when selling your product.
WHAT’S NECESSARY TO FACE A BUSINESS MEETING?
In case your goal is like ours and you want to offer your project to investors, there are some aspects to take into account that are fundamental: not only do they demonstrate professionalism, but they will surely increase your chances of closing a deal.
Vertical Slice: the term refers to the vertical cut we can make, for example, of a sandwich; in which we can see all its components and appreciate them. This could be a fairly advanced demo, approximately 50% of the development, where we can appreciate all the mechanics, part of the graphics, and so on. It may lack polishing, but again: we see all the fundamental components of the product in operation (mechanics, graphics, music, narrative, etc.)
Budget + Work plan: fundamental. Publishers want to know how much money they will spend on your product and if it makes sense to make the investment. In addition to that it’s necessary to specify how long it will take to develop what you are offering. It’s very important to know in advance what we are offering: A complete game? A project to put in early access? Are we looking for investment for the vertical slice? Again I emphasize that this is defined when the travel objectives are assembled.
Business plan: it’s an optional element where we explain how we are going to make earn money to our investors. It is quite risky to do it without having knowledge in the subject, at least I didn’t dare to present it. Sometimes the business plan is assembled by the same publisher, but if you have the knowledge to build it DO IT!
In case the team doesn’t finish a vertical slice:
Game presentation: this is an element that may also be included in the previous point, but the vertical slice is much stronger than a presentation with text and static images. In case we don’t get to have something as advanced, a presentation where we include concept, design pillars * of the game, objectives, features, a quick description and the differentiating element, it’s a good support when accompanying a pitch. Remember that you have little time so try to highlight the most important of your product.
Playable demo or gameplay video: at least one video is necessary, as it’s very difficult to get attention with just a static presentation. So the ideal is to get at least to have a video where you can show gameplay.
Budget + Work Plan (described in the previous point)
Obviously this is a list created based on my experience, so it’s not definitive and can include everything that seems appropriate for you: from conceptual art, to the music of the game or everything that can attract the attention of the investor or even feel that can give personality to what they are showing.
* (the design pillars are the structural elements of the game. In other words, those that cannot fail and form the essence and identity of the product. To give an example in The Last of Us two of the design pillars are the narrative and the relationship established with the character of Ellie, without it the game would not be the same)
- It’s important to keep in mind that publishers are interested in the product, but above all they are interested in the ability of the team to carry out the project in the time, form and with the budget that was agreed.
- You might never close a deal at the moment, but don’t be discouraged by that. The important thing is to leave a good impression of the product and the team. After a meeting always make a FOLLOW UP (emails to all investors with whom you met, to maintain contact). After the follow up, deeper negotiations may begin.
- Know WHAT are you selling. Selling many products can be a path or just only one, but always have clear what are you offering to the publisher. Do you offer services? a product? A series of products? (you can’t offer everything) Why should the other invest in our product / team? Confidence in what we show is a fundamental part of a meeting.
- THERE ARE NO MAGIC FORMULAS. While we can follow the advice of experts in the industry, of people who have already closed deals, and so on; It’s important that each team decides the path you want to follow and the type of business you want to do.
- Security and self confidence in what you are offering. When we are looking for investors we are looking for their trust to invest money in our project, so give them security and confidence to them is fundamental.
- Practice makes perfect, so going to some rounds at local fairs as a practice before the biggest fairs is a great plan. The more you talk about your project and the more confidence you have, the better
- Do not be discouraged by an investor who was not pleasant with you or your product, is part of the negotiations.
- KNOW AND PRACTICE ENGLISH
- Follow your passion and don’t give up!
It’s clear that our experience was very good in the event and we achieved our goal. Today we are in conversations with interested investors, some asked us to send them a more advanced version of the product, while others are interested in taking projects at very early stages of development; That is why I emphasize the fact that there are no magic formulas, take the advice of the greatest number of people, live your own experiences, practice, organize with your team and, above all, WORK, make a good product, with passion and security.
I hope you have found my first entry in our dev diary interesting and if you have any questions you can contact us through our social media channels or leave us a comment.
Thank you very much and I hope to return soon with more posts!