If you’re a game designer or toy inventor you’ve probably heard the term ‘sizzle reel’. But what does it mean? Why are they important? Do you really need one? And, if you do decide to make a sizzle reel … how, what, where, which bits??? This blog post aims to answer all those questions.

What is a sizzle reel?

A sizzle reel is an overview video of your game. It’s really the elevator pitch for your game. If you had 2 minutes to pitch your game to someone, what would you say? The sizzle shows what the game looks like on the table and gives the viewer a sense of what the game experience is like and what components are involved. 

 Do I really need one?

Well, that rather depends on who you want to pitch your game to. If you want to pitch to mass market publishers you’ll absolutely need a sizzle. Many mass market publishers won’t even accept a submission without a sizzle. Hobby game publishers usually don’t place such importance on the sizzle. Some won’t ask for a video at all, others will appreciate it, but not require it. But I’ve noticed a shift. More and more publishers are asking for sizzles. 

Sizzle Reel for Splinter

Why are they important?

Sizzles are important because they encapsulate your elevator pitch, but you don’t need to be there to give it. The video tells the publisher all the most important and exciting things about your game. They get to see the game in action. Remember, the person you are pitching to is only one person within a company. Even if they love your game when you show it to them, they will have colleagues to convince. They have to re-pitch your game internally to others. If you give them a good sizzle, you’re doing the work for them. You yourself are pitching – on demand. When you pitch a game at an event, the publisher will have heard about many other games before and after your pitch. A sizzle makes it easy for them to recall later on. Otherwise, your game may be more easily forgotten.

Muddleword Sizzle
(now Bangarang, published by Ginger Fox)

Top Tips for Super Sizzles

 

No expensive equipment needed.

Record the sizzle on your phone. Edit on your phone or computer. You don’t need to pay third party companies to do it for you. The one investment that is definitely worth it is to get a cheap smartphone holder so you can hold the phone stable. 

Keep it short.

For a tabletop game, the sizzle should ideally be under 2 minutes. It’s really hard to do (and I don’t always succeed). Some publishers do state a time limit. As an aside, for toy inventors – sizzles should be around 30 seconds.

Plan what you are going to say.

Don’t wing it. Write an actual script. For a 2-minute video you should be writing around 300 words. As you’re writing the script, put the sections you are going to deliver to camera in bold. This will help you when you’re recording. 

Focus on the hook.

What makes your game different or special? Where is the innovation? What is the main thing that you want people to remember? Make sure you put this right up front in your video – it is the most important thing to convey. Show the interesting component and how it works; explain the exciting mechanic; demonstrate why the theme sings.

Feature moments of delight.

The moments in your game that give players delight might be closely linked to the hook, but they may be more subtle. Make sure you know what these moments are and show them in the video. When these moments are social and easy for an observer to see, you may choose to add short clips of people playing. If the moments are more subtle, you can explain them. 

Don’t make it into a ‘How to play’ video.

You should include the overall aim and how players win. You could also explain the game structure – is it turn based, simultaneous or real-time? An example of what a player could do on a turn might be useful. But your sizzle doesn’t need to say every single thing about your game. If the publisher is interested after watching the sizzle, they’ll ask for the rules.

Whack-a-Mole Sizzle Reel

Explain how any key components work.

If you have an unusual component, explain how it works. Don’t leave viewers baffled. They will either try to guess how it is used and perhaps get it wrong or they’ll switch off because they don’t understand. 

Convey the game experience.

Make sure it’s clear what kind of a game this is. What is the experience for players? Will they be laughing and doing silly things? Will they be thinking and working out puzzly moves? Perhaps they’ll be engaged in a battle where players must be tactical to survive? Don’t assume the experience is obvious from the mechanics and components, be explicit about it. 

Sizzle Reel for Art Director

Feature yourself.

I strongly urge you to do some sections of your sizzle to camera – even if you’re just topping and tailing it or saying the odd thing in the middle. Your sizzle is an opportunity for you to convey your personality. You don’t just want publishers to remember your game, you want them to remember you. You only need to learn 1 sentence of your script at a time, but make sure you deliver each sentence direct into the camera lens. The viewer wants to feel as if you are talking directly to them. Remember – this is a pitch.

Be enthusiastic.

And I mean… be really enthusiastic. It may feel weird being enthusiastic to a camera lens. It may not feel natural – that’s ok. This is a performance. It’s 2 minutes. Your evident energy and enthusiasm for your game will rub off on viewers. I know this because publishers frequently tell me how much of a difference it makes in my own sizzles. 

Make sure your visuals are clear.

Film in good light. If you’re showing your game, make sure it’s at the right angle and the viewer can see what you’re talking about. Hold up key components to the camera so that they can be seen easily. Make sure the rest of the background is as clear as possible. A plain table with good lighting is ideal.

Make sure your audio is clear.

Eliminate as much background noise as possible – turn off fans, shut dogs in another room, bribe children. If you’re recording some sections of the script to camera and some sections showing the game on the table, record all the audio in the same way to avoid the quality of the audio changing. I always record the whole script in front of the camera, though for the bits I know I’ll place images over, I’m reading from the script.

Keep it pacey.

You don’t want anyone looking at the clock during your two minute sizzle. Make sure the flow of the game explanation is natural and edit out long pauses. 

The Touchy Feely Game Sizzle Reel

Edit.

It’s so unlikely that you’ll get a brilliant sizzle in one single take. Be prepared to record sections multiple times and edit as necessary. I use iMovie on my computer to edit. You shouldn’t need complicated editing packages. You just need to be able to splice together different sections of video, add voice-overs and perhaps add text.

Waterlilies Sizzle

Add limited text.

A small amount of information can be shared via text on the screen. For example, I used to start each video with an introduction of myself, now I just put my name on the screen. Adding the game name in text at the start is a good idea. You could also add player count, play time and minimum age as text. Don’t go overboard with text though – it could split attention too much.

A good sizzle will help your game find its perfect publisher more easily. It’s worth the planning and time investment. 

If you have any of your own tips to share, please do so below in the comments.