Heading to LA next week? Sold Out's George Morgan, Josh Garrity and Sean Labode offer advice on how to fully prepare for those all-important publisher meetings

How to win that publishing deal at E3

Making your way to E3 in the hopes of signing a publishing deal can be daunting, with rammed schedules, networking events and mixers all taking up a great amount of your time.

At Sold Out, we try and make our partners lives easier throughout development, into release and beyond as easy as possible. With that in mind, we’d like to offer newcomers an easy guide in how to approach publisher meetings, what to have prepared, and how to really impress your future partners.

There’s much to remember as you make your way to meetings, and even more to forget about some you may have had in the past, but there are some essential things to make sure you do. Firstly, be honest.

If you don’t have a prototype or a video with you, you’re just meeting someone to say hi. Be prepared with assets to share. Have your business plan ready to reference. Are you over-reaching with a multiple-format release on the same day? Do you have the budget to reach submission?

We as a publisher and distributor are here to help our development partners, and we’ll always be honest with you, so be honest with yourself to start with.

You need to have a rough idea of when all the different sections of your game will be complete before approaching publishers. Minor delays and missed deadlines happen all the time. Your development plan is never going to be 100 per cent accurate, and you’re going to discover problems during the creation of your game that you didn’t expect. But a well thought out development schedule can mean the difference between a missed deadline being perceived as a minor hiccup or a catastrophe.

Don’t slap together your best guess as to how long a task will take – talk to people experience to get a more accurate answer. Try to be pessimistic rather than optimistic about the time you give yourself. Most publishers are pragmatists, they respect realism. And of course, no one is going to be upset with the developer who’s ahead of schedule.

If you don’t have a prototype or a video with you, you’re just meeting someone to say hi. Be prepared with assets to share.

Digital is a brilliant place to be, but lots of smaller developers are writing off boxed format, thinking it’s too much work or thinking that it won’t sell. This is why we’re here, and it’s why we work tirelessly for your product – it’s our job, and that of every publisher out there to sell your game, so you can concentrate on making your game. Always consider every revenue stream, whether that’s retail release to third-party support. If a publisher or distributor mentions retail, don’t be scared; embrace it.

It’s easy to see publishers as a big giant corporation who only think about pound/dollar signs and don’t care about your game or your company. We do, we’re transparent in everything we do, and there’s nothing you can’t ask or question us. We will care for your game and IP far beyond post launch, making sure you’re still getting the best deal as the developer.

Presenting your game to potential partners does take confidence and tenacity. After all, you’ve worked on your game for countless hours and have five minutes to pitch it. That’s daunting for some but, at the end of the day we’ve all been in your position in one way or another, so remember that we don’t bite. Be yourself and most of all be passionate when presenting. If we can genuinely see that you love your game and excited for the road ahead then it’ll do wonders whilst demonstrating to us. The game can speak for itself but a confident developer can seal the deal.

Try to keep asking yourself, what do you want from your game, and what are you expecting? Ideally, we would all want full marks from the biggest international publications when it comes to coverage but remember to be realistic. As an independent developer you could want instant gratification for all your hard work but don’t be jaded when an average triple-A game makes the news front and centre.

Build a community as your end users will eventually be the ones buying and sharing your title via word of mouth. Remember to interact with video game journalists, whether on your own or with a PR company, and really build relationships. If IGN doesn’t cover your game it’s not the end of the world as other websites and magazines still carry weight with their influence and numbers.

If we can genuinely see that you love your game and excited for the road ahead then it’ll do wonders. The game can speak for itself but a confident developer can seal the deal.

What is your unique selling point? If you don’t know, you need to come up with one: one or two succinct sentences that express why anyone should care about your game. The industry is fickle, and you can’t afford to waste your time or anyone else’s. Don’t bury your head in detailed descriptions of your game’s lore or characters. Your USP is the core of your game once everything else is stripped away. Once you know what that core is, you’ll be able to grab people’s attention much faster and much more effectively.

The beauty of being an independent developer, whether working on your own or within a studio, is the fact that you can create whatever you want. As awesome as this is, everyone is also in the same boat as you. Thousands of games appear on Greenlight every few months, but how many of them can you personally say interests you?

Video games over the decades come in all shapes and sizes, genres and lengths, and we can all agree that innovative games standout more. If your title challenges the norm and rivals other games on the market then you’re halfway there. Be unique and let your work be an example of this because we’re as intrigued with new approaches as the end users would be.

While this doesn’t cover everything, it should give you a good idea of how to really make an impact. There’s not long now until E3, so have a great time, meet loads of new people, and we wish you the best of luck in securing the best deal you can get.

If you’re interested in talking to Sold Out, we’d love to see you in the Concourse Hall, room #8505, where you’ll find us. 

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