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The top 5 ways to know your game is ready to pitch (or self-publish)

I’m trying something a bit new for this next series of articles I’m writing for you. It’s going to be like a series of top 10 lists, only they won’t all contain exactly 10 things and the topics will vary, however, they will all be related to game design in some manner.

The first article here is the top 5 ways to know your game is ready to pitch (or self-publish). However, I want to be clear that when I say ready to self-publish, I do not mean you’re ready to put your game on Kickstarter the next day. Preparing a campaign and building a sizable audience takes time and effort. So, in this context I’m really just saying your game itself is ready, not your campaign – you’ll still have to put in the work before you launch.

Ok, with that out to the way, let’s go through the list to know when your game is ready, shall we?

#5 The feedback you’re receiving would make the game different but not better

When you playtest your game with other designers and players, you’ll often receive a lot of feedback. Quite often it will be necessary criticism that you need to hear in order to identify problems with your game and make it the best it can be.

Often, other designers will give you feedback that would change the game more into the game that they would have designed or would have liked to play, so you have to watch for this.

But when players only have suggestions on how to make small changes that would make the game slightly different, but not necessarily better, take note of this. If this is the only feedback you’re consistently receiving and there are no major problems being identified and no suggestions for improving your game, this is a great sign.

#4 Players want to immediately play again

“Can we play again?”

This is like music to a game designer’s ears.

While this won’t happen with every game, particularly longer games that you wouldn’t normally play multiple times in a row, with a shorter game, this is something you want to hear from your players. If one player has just tasted defeat, they may want a re-match. If it’s a co-op game and the players narrowly lost, they may want another chance at redemption.

If your game is a bit on the longer side, what you might hear instead is players discussing strategy and what they would do the next time they play. They’ve found some depth to your game and have indicated they are interested in playing again in the future.

If you’re hearing any of these types of comments consistently, you can be confident that your game is getting close to the stage where you’ll be ready to pitch it to publishers.

#3 Publishers playing your game give you their card and ask you your plans

If you have the opportunity to play your game with one or more publishers, do it! They are a wealth of information and can often give you great feedback about the gameplay, rules, and how to look at your game as not just a game, but also as a product.

If you’re really fortunate and a publisher takes a liking to your game, they may want to pursue it further. If it complements their catalogue and they can see it being a potential addition to their line-up, they might give you their card and ask you what you plan to do with your game.

You may even end up getting your game signed as a result (just don’t expect this to happen on the spot!).

#2 Players ask when your game is coming out and how they can find out about this

If players finish playing your game and immediately ask when it will be available, this is a great sign. It’s even better if they say this while playing your game.

They’ve indicated they enjoyed your game and are interested in picking it up when it becomes available.

If your players are consistently asking when your game is coming out, it means there is some demand for it, which is always a great thing!

#1 People want to buy your game right now!

It’s an amazing feeling when someone is ready to pull out their credit card and buy your game right there on the spot.

If players are asking to buy your game right now, they are putting their money where their mouth is. They’re not just saying they like your game, they are ready to put down their hard-earned cash to get a copy so that they can share this with their friends and family.

If this is happening consistently, there is definitely a demand for your game and there is something special about it. You’re now ready to pitch that game to a publisher (and you can even mention/share a list of people who want to buy it right now)!

Wrapping it up

Please notice how frequently I have used the word “consistently” throughout this article. You might even say I used this word very consistently. 😊

There is good reason.

One positive playtest does not indicate demand for your game. I’ve had plenty of one-off playtests where all the players absolutely loved the game, had no criticisms, and would have been happy to buy it right then if it was available. However, quite often the next playtest brings me back to Earth. The players didn’t like the pacing, they felt something in the mechanics didn’t match the theme well, etc.

This is natural and it happens all the time. That’s why you want to be hearing the above consistently. I can’t give you how an exact number of times in a row this should be happening, but you’ll have a good idea when you keep getting these positive reinforcements with different groups over and over.

You also want to be sure that players are saying these things without any prompting. If you are asking players if they want to play again, they may say “yes”, however, this may be out of courtesy. If they are asking to play again or buy your game themselves, you can be sure this is the real McCoy (who I recently learned through Steampunk Rally most likely refers to Black inventor Elijah McCoy – how cool is that?!?!).

What other indicators have told you that your game is ready?

Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!

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    Thank you for the tips. It’s thrilling whenever positive feedback comes to you while people are playing the game. It’s also soul-crushing when the players are experiencing confusion or frustration from your creation. I have had to grow a thick skin to learn that all feedback is constructive, especially the negative feedback. When smiles and laughter begins while playing my games, then and only then do I know my game is ready to go!
    Thanks again

    Absolutely, Michael! We have to have thick skin as game designers. Most of the feedback you get is about things that aren’t working right in your game, especially early on, so it’s important to keep going and use that feedback to make your game better. Only when you are CONSISTENTLY getting feedback around playing your game again and wanting to buy it can you have the confidence that it has the potential to do well and find a publisher.

    Positive feedback is all very well, but I prefer to make negative judgements. The article I would love to read is: The top 5 ways to know your game is NOT YET ready to pitch (or self-publish) – even though you may think it is!

    I’m not worried about the obvious ones, like the rulebook is still in draft. I am looking for the final checks to verify that my wishful thinking is in fact objectively valid.

    Great suggestion, Andrew! This might just be a future article. Thanks!