Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A fan?

I am currently at the Austin GDC show. I was just sitting there in my booth, getting things ready for the expo hall to open up to the public in he morning when two very strange things happened.

The first was this: a guy walked up to me while I was busily getting things ready to go. He began to ask me about our games, and then before having seen them launched in to a pitch for a game he is currently developing. Then he told me all about how it is a perfect for Skill City and that there are some good options for partnership and revenue sharing.

Now, let's not get confused about my intention here. Lets call him Jim because it's a short name that isn't his. Jim is a nice guy, I have nothing against him, and his game really was neat.

Jim's pitch was horrible. Please all ye seekers of publishers, distributors, do not make these mistakes.

First, I am busy, and most other people who you would like to meet with are busy as well. While a tradeshow is a great place to pitch your idea and to network, you have to know there is a time a place. I am extremely annoyed when people fail to realize that I value my time as much as they value theirs. You cannot approach a CEO and pitch your game out of the blue. Call me? Email me? Make an appointment. I will set aside time just for you, time that is all yours, even if your game is trash or you don't have anything I care about... I have set aside that time for you.

I have met with several other people in the video game production world, publishers, and developers. Some may be terse, some may be rude, but all will respect you if you call and ask to set an appointment so that you can pitch your game idea.

The second mistake was his complete lack of knowledge of what we do at Skill City. When you are going to pitch your game to somebody you must do your homework. Take a moment to get to know them. If you are going to cold pitch like this (that's the pitch to somebody you haven't talked to before) then that's fine but you must understand that you know not to whom you are talking, and you need to adjust your pitch.

If you don't, you might give one the impression you are arrogant and even worse than that you might impress upon your listener that you are foolish.

My visitor made this mistake a few times and I am a nice guy so I just smiled. For all he knew Skill City was an online porn site and had some web based games people could play while switching photo galleries.

The third mistake, and honestly the most fatal one was that he bad mouthed the other companies he had spoken to about his game.


You never do this. You do not walk in to Microsoft and try to impress them or win them over by talking trash on Nintendo. Why? Everybody sitting in that room knows, personally, somebody over at Nintendo. Your chances of them ever talking to you again go down by an order of magnitude every time you make this blunder.

I have made this blunder too. I am not without sin. I learned from my mistake though and now when I am in meetings and the names of another company come up I nod and agree that I have dealt with them in the past. If details are pressed from me I might say something like "It didn't work out and I am not doing business with them right now." See? I didn't say I am not doing business them ever, or that things went badly. I left any emotional qualifiers out.

Please let me remember to do this from now on, because its an easy pit to fall in to.

The final mistake that was made by Jim Von Doomedpitcher (I made up that name just now) was that he had no game design spec, no timeline, no milestones, and brought up such immediately. His defense was just that he was a fast coder and needed no such things because his game would be done on time, and he was a man who was always timely. Further he blundered in to his last pitfall once more and slandered the last executive he pitched to for asking for such a ludicrous thing as a plan for his development.

At this point I finally had to halt Jim because a time burglar left un-checked will consume an entire day of mine, and I am nothing if not busy. Simultaneously I knew that Jim was a man with talent, and no experience.

Ah, you are leaning in to your monitor now and saying to your screen as if speaking to me that I am also a man of no experience. Nay, for I am one of little experience, but certainly more than your average basement indie developer. It may seem common sense even, the wisdom of my experience.

Back to Jim. I told him that he needed to stop, because Skill City had no use for his game, and while it was impressive he needed to be talking to other people. I offered him their names and pointed him in the right direction. Undaunted he pushed on insisting there was a synergy for us, me as the holder of a site with traffic and him as the maker of a game.

I am sorry, I told him, but we make our own games, and our business plan is such that we will continue to do so. Further his lack of a written plan and slander of those who request it was something I stated to him as being very foolish. Did he not understand that a million dollar business is only that because of its use of plans and documents? He cannot fault them for wanting one, and to be surprised when they ask for it, or offended, is just stupid because they will ALL want this. He was forced to agree.

Now Jim had a leg up on everybody else. His game, while a prototype that was 90% done, was way ahead of most who come pitching. He had a game to show me, not just a written plan. Why then do we want a plan? Here is the game laid bare before me. I want a plan because I want to see written down what the 10% that isn't complete is going to look like, and a written guarantee of when it will be done.

So will everybody else.

That my friends is todays object lesson, and I do feel badly that I am using this guy as the example of what not to do, but that is life. We learn the most from mistakes, we never notice the subtleness of a choice well made for very long.

I did say I had two visitors that surprised me.

The second from a reader of this Blog, and that was really cool. I have never met in person somebody who reads anything I put on here, and his words of praise motive me to keep going here. The best part? He is from Australia, so aside from the cool accent that's a really far away place, and to just walk past and say "Ah, thats the big logo on that booth for the guy who does that company with the blog I read while I am here in the US a billion miles from home."

Well that's just cool. It blew my mind for a second and I recognized again that this is a tight knit little industry we have here.

So, don't talk bad about anybody 'cause it will hurt if ya do. (sorry Jim)

1 comment:

chenpo said...

Hi dude!! It was great to meet you :D

- your second visitor.