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Dan Vavra on Pitching Warhorse's New RPG to Publishers

Dan Vavra on Pitching Warhorse's New RPG to Publishers

Editorial - posted by Crooked Bee on Thu 21 November 2013, 17:26:06

Tags: Dan Vávra; Kingdom Come: Deliverance; Warhorse Studios

Warhorse Studio's Daniel Vavra, who you might know from the Mafia series as well as from his posts here on the Codex, has written a new blog post detailing the process of pitching his new realistic medieval sandbox action-RPG to various publishers.

Pitching is a thankless task. Usually you’ve got a few (score) minutes to persuade someone who’s not very interested in you to give you money for something you’ve already invested a huge amount of time and money in. And if they don’t give you the money, very often it means the end of the line.

The pitch usually has several rounds. First you have to get past the “doorman”, who weeds out the worst trash and sends you on further. Then you get to meet the producers, who really can make decisions, but even if they like you, they have to sell the idea internally to the company management and marketing division. Someone from a publishing firm once said that out of several hundred pitches a year, only about five games reach the shelves. [...]

In the morning we went to see the big fish – so big that we anticipated in advance that we hadn’t the slightest chance of success. Company mottos were hanging in the corridors and you would never think that the people you met here worked in the game industry. More like in a bank - expensive suits, high-heeled shoes and twin-sets. The guy we were presenting to didn’t fit into that pigeonhole, though, and turned out to be quite a likeable grouch. The presentation was again a little on the cool side, though it didn’t end up with a “no”, but a promise of further talks, which, we were told, was an almost incredible result.

On the beach in Santa Monica we chowed down on what Tim said were the best burritos on the planet and then headed off for the other side of town to see a Japanese publisher. There we were greeted by the biggest audience yet of mainly Japanese producers, and the response was absolutely incredible. If we were on anyone’s wavelength, then it was theirs. You could see they really had to get a grip on themselves to keep from shouting from the rooftops how much they liked our game. They followed up with the right questions, which was no surprise, because they have experience with a similar game. Everything was looking really fantastic and I have to say I was really attracted by the idea of working with people who were so enthusiastic about the thing. Until we found out a few days later that their parent company was in trouble and they could forget about investing anytime in the near future. A crying shame. [...]

The problem is, in a 70-hour sandbox RPG it’s pretty hard to explain the story. So we told Sean, who had worked in his time with Francis Ford Coppola, about the historical background of our game and, after several hours of brainstorming, came up with one PowerPoint page describing what it was about, with an emphasis on who the "Ginger Fox” was (Czechs know already). I would never have dared putting that in a presentation. No one could be interested in that, after all. But it turned out quite the contrary. [...]

To sum it all up, we had a good feeling at the end of the day. There was only one clear NO. A few more NOs came due to issues at the publishers (other RPGs in their portfolios, bad financial situations…), but the game went down very well. With several publishers we pretty much got to the second round of talks and we even had interest from people we had gone to practically just on the off-chance. More than half of the meetings ended with a promise of further talks and some turned out very promising indeed.

But it wasn’t all rosy. Quite often we heard the criticism that the game didn’t look epic enough and the hero wasn’t cool enough and looked a bit square. Our hero isn’t a boring character – the mistake was that we chose the beginning of the game, where the majority of heroes in RPGs are starting from the bottom.​

Read the post in full here.

Thanks Smejki!

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