Mojo Pitch is over, for another year and now (most of) my follow up is complete, I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on this bonkers but brilliant event.
I’m doing this in a set of three blog posts.
- Before the pitch (that’s this one)
- The pitch
- After the pitch
About Mojo Pitch
Mojo Pitch is an annual event run by Mojo Nation – an organisation dedicated to helping inventors bring their ideas to life. In the pitch, which is part of their Play Creators Festival, designers pitch their toys and games to publishers. Most, though not all, of the publishers that take part in Mojo Pitch are mass market publishers.
As a toy or game designer you can pay a moderate fee (around £220) to take part in Mojo Pitch. The event has two parts – 1) a full day of 20 minute in-person pitches and 2) three full days of 30-minute virtual pitches. You can choose to take part in either the live or the virtual event – or both.
Mojo Play Creators Conference
This year I was on holiday during the live event, so I only attended the virtual pitch. Last year, just the live one. There are challenges and delights with both. If you’re well prepared, the event will be far less stressful and far more productive. This post is about pre-pitch preparation.
7-8 weeks before the event, you’re sent the wishlists of publishers attending the event. From this you can select which publishers you will pitch to. If you’re a game designer, it’s tempting to select every company that wants games, but there’s really no point in pitching your thinky card game to a publisher that’s only looking for the next big plastic kids game.
I spend a lot of time researching each (games) company on the list. I study their website, search for reviews and read interviews with their inventor relations people. I do this because some wishlists are better than others. Some publishers are brilliant at providing a lot of detailed information about what they’re currently looking for… and some aren’t. I’ve seen wishlists that just say something along the lines of “We’re looking for great games”. I’m paraphrasing, but only a bit.
Getting a good picture of what games a publisher has produced in the past and which ones are selling, gives you context and helps you choose the right games to pitch to them. Also – it’s obvious in a pitch if you’ve done your homework or not.
If you’re familiar with their games, you can refer to them. For example:
- “This game would be a great fit for your ________ line”
- “This is a natural progression from ___________”
- “This game can be based in the world of _________ but uses totally new mechanics.”
After I’ve finished my research, I create a document with a section for each publisher. Here I write up my research and write concise notes about what they are looking for (as based on their wishlist – and possibly based on conversations I’ve had with them in the past).
I use this document to identify common strands. For example, each time a company mentions they want family card games, I’ll mark it on a tally. When I’ve done this, I’ve got a really good overall picture of what companies are searching for this year.
Some of the card games I pitched at this year’s Mojo
I concentrate on the most common wants first. What games do I have that fit these categories? And… in which areas do I have nothing or little to offer? If I have games in development that are a good fit, I fast-track them through rounds of playtesting to make sure they are ready in time. I usually create one or two entirely new games based on wishlist wants too.
Now I create an index card for each publisher and write down the names of the games I intend to pitch to them. I usually aim to pitch 6 games in 20-30 minute meetings.
Once I know which games I want to pitch, I prepare the follow up material for each one. I want to make sure I have everything publishers may ask for – before the event. This may seem counterintuitive, but speedy follow up after the event helps publishers to remember concepts and act on them quickly. You don’t want to miss out on a potential signing because you didn’t follow up in time. Being responsive also demonstrates your professionalism and also stops you being bogged down in tedious event ‘clean-up’.
To follow up, most publishers want videos and/or sell-sheets. Many want images. Some want rules. So the 2 weeks prior to the event is mostly spent getting all this ready. Recording last minute videos (3 minutes max) and creating image-heavy sell-sheets.
Some publishers will want you to sign NDAs. Some will want you to upload all the concepts you are going to show them to their inventor portal before the event. They’ll want videos at this stage, which can catch some people unawares. Uploading things to portals can take a while, so leave time for it.
The last step is thinking about how you are going to pitch your games. If you’re doing the live pitch, you have 20 minutes per pitch… but that’s only half the story. The publishers stay put – each in a separate room – but you will have to move between pitches. Oh, and there’s no time built in for moving.
For the live Mojo Pitch 2022, I had sixteen pitches – several back-to-back. Publishers were along a corridor in separate hospitality boxes at Twickenham Stadium. They were organised alphabetically. I had a meeting with Amigo (at one end of the stadium) followed immediately by a meeting with Tomy (at the other end). I had to pack up and move, with zero time in between.
Hatchet sizzle reel
It may sound crazy… and it is. But it’s also brilliant. It’s really important to think about how you’re going to pitch multiple games, pack up and run, then be pitch ready with the games all organised for the next publisher a moment later.
Different people tackle this in different ways. Some just take sell sheets and videos to play in pitch meetings, rather than attempting to show the games at all. But I think that’s a waste. I’ve only got 20 minutes in a room with you. Why would I spend that time watching you watch a video of me? That time is precious for generating rapport and starting to build a relationship.
This index box is full of games I’ve designed. It’s useful to go through it when I’m working out what to pitch to a publisher.
The virtual pitch doesn’t have the challenge of running between rooms, but it throws up other challenges. It’s important to think about how to explain and share your games when you’ve only got your computer camera. How do you get publishers to understand your interactive elements, when they can’t touch your game?
I’ve tested out several different speed-pitching methods, and they’ll be more about these in the next blog. The important thing is that you need a plan, and not one that you come up with the night before.
The next blog will focus on what happens in the pitch room and how you can make the most of it.
While I’m specifically talking about the Mojo Pitch, due to the scale of the event, I treat other pitches in similar ways. I hope this blog is useful however you are pitching.