I mentioned in my last post that I feel that the games market is heavily over-saturated with content. Based on this, I feel that releasing a game without any backing is about the same as throwing it into the ocean.
You always hear stories about people getting venture capital. Last month I saw post about a local gaming start up "poised to change gaming" or something along those lines, being funded. So I google the company name and check out the site only to see a not too exciting webpage touting the same tagline... Only with zero content showing what they are actually doing. You think to yourself, these guys got a million bucks? I don't see anything here... and at least to me, it seems like hey... there is free money out there for the taking... What are you waiting for Jason? Go get some!
I have recently been receiving emails from the sf game dev meetup for "free" demo / pitch start up mixers. It's worth noting that, pitching at this kind of event is NOT free. You must pay $125, for a table to be able to set up you a demo table and pitch on stage, which at the time seemed fair enough. Given that I feel I needed backing... It seemed logical that this might be a valid outlet. I excitedly recorded a pitch video and submitted it.
Not too long after I received an email back. "CONGRATULATIONS YOU ARE ACCEPTED" in all caps, I of course felt a little excited again... As well as nervous, being just an artist / developer... I have no experience pitching... Additionally, spending endless hours of your life stuck in front of a computer screen doesn't do much for ones' interpersonal skills. Still, I am of the breed that one can do anything they put their mind to. I have two days to prepare my pitch, and that seems more than adequate. I do prepare and memorize my pitch, as well as get some materials together for networking and showing my demo. By Friday I am feeling OK, I committed my pitch to memory and head off to the meetup.
The meetup was cool enough, I met many interesting people as one does at these kinds of events. I was the only guy pitching a game. Others were pitching a variety of web services and technical concepts. I think what others were pitching ranged from fully developed systems, to more abstract concepts not fully developed. Still, I felt a little out of my element given that I was the only person presenting a game. Speaking to others it was pretty easy to gauge the interest level. Generally, what I gleaned from those I talked to was, they thought my game looked cool... But based on that alone you have zero chance of getting money.
Here is what I learned that others should find useful. These people don't care about your idea. They don't want to know about how the game mechanic works or how it is similar to this or that. They may admire how cool it looks, and the novelty of it being a game... But that only represents a surface reaction and doesn't represent much in terms of value. They are really only willing to put money into something that already has traction, meaning users, or data that people are using your product. Or.... A team of people with a successful track record. Which basically means they are looking for a sure bet. At this point I don't have a sure bet... So the only other option for me is to create some traction the best that I can.
The time came to pitch on stage... You pitch in front of the crowd as well as some SF venture capitalists who are the judges. As I went up onto the stage to pitch I was feeling ok... I had memorized it so... I should be fine I thought. I Started out just fine, then... about two paragraphs in, one of the venture capital guys interrupts me. "Excuse me, excuse me! What value are you offering?". This caught me off guard, I hadn't expected to be interrupted. "I am pitching a game concept, I am not sure of the value." I answered. "Ok, Ok, (sigh) continue" He replies condescendingly. By now my nervousness had spiked, I tried to regain my composure, and pick up where I left off... But it was too late my memory was blank. I then fielded a couple more questions from the VC, iterating that I am not trying to create something completely new and unique... Only trying to look at what is successful and tap into that vein in the market. Mr. Condescending had no more comments, another VC offered support in info about a incubator he is starting... So we'll see what that means.
My advice is if you are thinking about doing one of these events... I think you can skip the pitching and paying them $125. Going to the mixer and networking is free... and in hindsight I could have gone to this without pitching, and had the same experience... and met the same people.