This is one of the most frustrating steps of game design: waiting for a publisher to playtest your game. Getting a publisher to agree to take a look at your game is a big step, and now you have to wait…and wait…and wait, until you hear back from them.
So what can a designer do to lessen the wait period?
The number one thing you can do is to set the expectations at the beginning. As designers we get very excited when a publisher shows interest in our game and we often let some things slide. When you’re handing over your prototype over to a publisher, ask them how long they’d like to have it to review. A 2-3 month window should be ample time for a publisher to playtest your game. A great way to bring this up is to ask them how long they’d like to have exclusivity rights to the prototype. This means that you won’t show your game to any other publisher for this period. Some publishers will let you know immediately that they don’t care if you show it to other publishers – which is great for you as you can start showing other publishers right away. Make sure you let the new publisher that your game is already being reviewed by another publisher. It’s very important to be transparent here as your reputation is on the line. If a publisher spends a couple weeks playtesting your game, only to find out that another publisher wants to make it, then they’re not going to like you too much and they won’t want to see any more of your games in the future.
Unfortunately sometimes we aren’t this adamant in our initial discussion with a publisher and now they have the game and you’re left wondering when they’re going to play it. Eventually you’re going to get to a point when you’re going to have to contact them again, but watch out – there’s a fine line between following up and becoming a nuisance!
A very-friendly email that has no feeling like it’s being demanding is a good start:
Hi , I’m just following up on , the game that I designed and sent to you . We met at and after showing you a sample round, you expressed some interest in playtesting it with your game group. Have you had a chance to give the game a try yet? I’m confident that would be a great fit for because .
Sometimes you’ll get a response and sometimes you won’t. When you do, they usually will say that they haven’t had time and will give you an idea about when they’re getting together with their playtest group again. If they don’t respond, well – that can be frustrating. My recommendation is to wait another couple weeks and send another email. It’s very possible that they meant to respond but it slipped off their to-do list. For this second email, it might be a good time to start setting an end date if one wasn’t agreed upon up front.
Hi , I’m following up again to see if you have had a chance to playtest yet. I am confident that my game would be a perfect fit for your company, but if you’re not interested, please let me know so I can continue to shop it around.
If you still don’t get a response then the third email would usually have a specific end date mentioned. Then at the time specified, let the publisher know you would like the prototype shipped back to you. Don’t make it sound mean – just keep it all business-like.
But the one thing you should be doing while you’re waiting to hear back from a publisher: create more games! If you’re serious about board game design, then you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket! Start working on your next design. The ultimate goal is to have a game in many different stages, so you’re always working on something at each stage.