Here are the three best case scenarios that could happen to you when you’re at a convention:
1) There’s a ‘bidding war’ between multiple publishers over the rights to publish your game. This would be amazing but usually only happens to designers with a reputation.
2) A publisher agrees to publish your game at the convention. There’s no contract because it’s so impromptu – but it’s usually a verbal agreement that will restrict you from showing the game to any other publisher.
3) A publisher is interested enough to take the game back to their offices to playtest with their playtest groups.
Number 3 is the one that will happen most often as a publisher wants to see the ins and outs of the game on their own time. After showing a game to a publisher at a convention and they say they would like to take it back with them, the acceptable thing to say is that since you only have one prototype that you’d like to keep it until the end of the convention. Every publisher I’ve said this to immediately understands this and is 100% fine with it. Who knows, maybe there’s another publisher at the convention who’s willing to agree to publish the game right there at the convention!
Max from Out of the Box liked our Games on the Go line of games enough to want to take them back with him. Before I could reply he said that if they were my only copies of the prototype then I could come back at the end of the show to give them to him. Nice.
When you do hand off your games, make sure your games are properly labeled. A properly labeled prototype has your name and contact information on as many things as possible: on the outside of the box, on the inside of the box, on the rules and even on any other smaller boxes or baggies. If you have business cards made up, then just glue or tape your business cards to the box. Label the outside of the box with the name of your game. Make it in colour and use an appropriate font. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to come up with an acceptable logo for your game. The publisher fully understands that this is a prototype – but all these extra touches shows how serious you are about it. For Akrotiri we just searched online for a Greek font and came up with dozens to choose from. We made it blue and added a drop shadow behind it – and voila, we’ve got a logo!
You have to think about where this box is going. It’s going back to their offices with however many more games they agreed to take a look at – and added to the pile of boxes that they already have there. You need to ensure that your game will stand out from the others. Something that will make one of the playtesters say, “Hey let’s play that one with the leopard print box.” If you just pack it in a boring brown cardboard box and tape it shut – then you’re not doing yourself any favours.
So by the end of the convention, it’s time to hand off as many of your games as possible. If you got offers from more than one publisher for the same game then you’re going to have to make some tough decisions. At my first convention we got an offer to look at Jam Slam (back when it was called Jungle Jam) from R&R games as well as Face to Face Games. Since Jungle Jam at the time needed electronic components we decided to show the game to R&R Games since they had experience making games with electronic pieces. In discussing this with Face to Face Games at the end, they understood and weren’t disappointed as they got to take another one of our games back with them at the time.
So that’s it for conventions. As you can see they are very important for game designers as is evident in the quantity of posts we devoted to the subject:
Step 27) Leaving the game with a publisher
The next few steps will be about working with a publisher who’s agreed to publish your game.