Gathering: Pitching to Mercury and Wrap Up

Here’s the final post in our lengthy series of pitching to publishers at the Gathering in April. It was an unbelievably amazing time and one of my favourite weeks every year! For previous posts in this series check them out here:

  1. Intro and overview of the Gathering
  2. Pitching to publishers overview
  3. Pitching to Asmodee and Repos
  4. Pitching to Filosofia and Z-Man Games
  5. Pitching to Asmodee, R&R Games and Abacuspiele
  6. Pitching to ThinkFun
  7. Pitching to Hasbro

Our final pitch of the Gathering was to Mercury Games. Last year Mercury Games was a new kid on the block – having no games published yet. Last year they were looking for their launch title and while I didn’t think any of our games that we had to pitch at that time would fit their bill, there was another game from another designer (a fellow Game Artisan of Canada) that I thought would be perfect for them.

I had showed them a sales sheet for a game called Quarantine. They liked the concept and then phoned Mark that same day and asked for the rules. The next day they phoned him again and asked for a prototype. A couple weeks pass and they signed Mark’s game to be their first game! In fact, Quarantine should be available now from your local game store!

QuarantineSo fast forward to this year and the Mercury gang sought me out and said that they’d like to look at what we had to pitch. Mark had contacted them earlier and told them he had a couple new designs and so they were eager to check them out as well as anything else we had to pitch.

The pitch session started that night and then continued the next day! We pitched a bunch of our games and the main game of ours that they liked was Clunatics. They were unsure about the party game space but had a really good time with the session that they are interested in talking with us about it more in the future.

I showed them another Game Artisan of Canada game from Graeme Jahns (designer of Alba Longa) called Iron Horse Bandits. I explained the game to them and walked them through the first round, but then had to leave them. It was the second last day of the event and Sen and I had to type out the rules to Lions Share and Pop Goes the Weasel for the two publishers that wanted them – because, as you might remember, I lost all my files when my computers were stolen.

They came back after playing it and had a good time with it but also some concerns. I’ve shared them with Graeme and he’s already made some changes to the game! They also played Mark’s two games: You’re Fired and Garden Plot. They liked Garden Plot a lot but wanted to see some changes to You’re Fired before seeing it again.

I had a really good time with the Mercury gang. We ended up grabbing dinner together, along with Chris Handy and just hung out and chatted – sometimes about the gaming business and sometimes not. That’s one of my favourite things I love about the Gathering – just chilling with publishers and getting to know each other. We also got to play a full game of Keyflower with Mercury and it ended up being my favourite game of the event!

So that about wraps up our amazing Gathering journey this year! There were many more stories that happened during the week that are worth sharing:

Rob Bartel arrived late this year (last year he and I were tag team buddies in pitching GAC games!) and when he got here I offered to show him the prototypes that we were pitching this year. We found an open table and I started to unpack one of my games. As I was explaining one of my games it caught the attention of Peter Eggert from Eggertspiele. I saw him looking in and so I asked him to come over and have a seat. As soon as he sat down I asked him what kind of games Eggertspiele was looking for. He said he was looking for medium weight Euro-style games that take about an hour to play.

daryl-londonderryI didn’t have any game with me that fit into that requirement, but I asked fellow Game Artisan of Canada, Daryl Andrews if his game, Londonderry, fit into his requirements. Daryl saw that we were talking to Peter and had added himself to the end of the table! Good move! Daryl said that his game fit exactly within his requirements and so we all decided to give it a try. I packed up my proto and we set up Londonderry – which I had yet to play!

We played a full game and much to my surprise it did indeed last exactly an hour. Also to my surprise (no offense to Daryl at all), I loved the game! I told Daryl that besides all of Sen and Jay’s designed games, it was my favourite prototype I’ve ever played. Peter was also very impressed with it and started chatting with Daryl about it. Throughout the rest of the event Peter played it another two times (at least) and was ridiculously interested in it! Awesome!

It was also fun to play games with Vlaada Chvatil (Dungeon Lords designer) and William Attia (Caylus designer). I loved playing Coup with Vlaada and Hanabi with William (I hope Hanabi wins SDJ this year!). I also purchased Chris Handy’s new game from Rio Grande, Cinqe Terre and got to play a game with him and Vlaada! Fun efficiency game!

The entire 10 days was a whirlwind of pitches and gaming. One night at 2am someone asked me if I wanted to play Terrra Mystica. Yes. Yes I did. So 5:30 am rolls around when we finally finished (our sleepiness might have factored into our analysis paralysis!). I felt like I did last year at the Gathering – that this was the most productive 10 days I have spent all year as a game designer. Playtesting our games, getting feedback from other designers or publishers, pitching games and getting publishers interested enough to want to take them back for further assessing – not to mention just the general contact building and friendship making that happens at the Gathering. Amazing.

So now we’re back to tweaking, designing and following up. We should hear back from R&R about Pop Goes the Weasel by the end of June and we need to finalize What’s That for Repos Productions asap! We should also hear back about Lions Share within a month or two from Abacuspiele and we have some tweaks for Rock, Paper, Wizards based on Filosofia’s feedback that we need to continue to test. So the machine continues! I love designing games!

-Jay Cormier

 

Belfort is in the top 200 games on BGG!

belfort_logoYou read that right – Belfort has made its way into the top 200 games on boardgamegeek.com! This rating is based on users rating games on a scale of 1 to 10 and then they do some funky math to ensure brand new games with five ratings of 10 isn’t the number 1 game of all time!

So huzzah and a big thank you to everyone who’s played it and rated it on BGG. It’s amazing to have designed a game that now sits amongst my own favourite games of all time!

belfort-200

-Jay Cormier

 

Gathering: Pitching to Hasbro!

Hasbro_logo_newAs we were wrapping up our pitch session with ThinkFun, Tanya asked us if we had pitched to Hasbro yet. Uh….no…! Our understanding of Hasbro was that you can’t just be a Joe Schmoe and walk up to Hasbro and start pitching. We knew that Mike Gray, the main person who looks at pitches from designers, was at the Gathering – and we had actually had a fun run-in with him earlier in the week:

Sen and I were walking down the hall, checking out what people were playing, and we passed by the Snakes and Lattes team. We know them because we had our Belfort launch party there – and because Sen goes there for designer night. We said hi and they said “Hi Sen and Jay!” At that point, another person said, “Oh that’s Sen and Jay?” He asked us to come over to the table and said to Mike Gray, who was sitting beside him – at the same table as the Snakes and Lattes gang and said, “Hey Mike, this is Sen and Jay!”

At which point Mike stood up, stuck out his hand and said with all sincerity, “I want to thank you guys for Belfort. I was the first kid on the block to have it and I love it.” Wow! That was really cool. We talked about the expansion a bit – since it was launching on Kickstarter the following week – and then bid farewell.

So we say to Tanya that normal shlubs aren’t allowed to pitch to Hasbro and she says, “oh right.” But then goes on to say that she’s friends with Mike and that he should see our stuff. Um….OK! She calls out to Mike, who was nearby and after some figuring out, Mike agrees to see our games! He even mentioned, right in front of us that he usually never sees people he doesn’t know – but since we came with recommendations from Tanya – he allowed it! Cool!

The pitch with Hasbro was great, and while I can’t share everything that was said in that meeting as we signed an agreement before we started talking – it was super informative for both of us. He started off by saying that it was like we were aiming at a target. He hoped that today we would at least hit the board somewhere. Then, after hearing what he has to say that we would see him again next year and that we would be closer to the target. Cool analogy!

Mike shared with us the different demographics and markets that Hasbro is currently looking for ideas. It was a very interesting conversation that revealed that sometimes you don’t even need a full on prototype. If it involves a mechanism that moves in some way – that you could show a diagram that explains it. I also found it interesting that at Hasbro they refer to all designers as inventors. To me that means that they see their games closer to being toys than games – but I’m sure it’s just semantics.

l4w-1Then we got to pitch a few of our games. We started with our two word games because we thought that they could possibly be a Scrabble or Boggle spin-off. Lost for Words got his attention and while he thought it was a bit too complicated for the Hasbro audience, he said he knew of someone else who had an app that might want to move into the physical board game space and this might be it. He said he’d put us in contact with him! Nice!

Chainables-LOGOThen we played Chainables – and I was super surprised that we ended up playing an entire game! What?!? This is usually unheard of and has only happened one or two times with me in all my years of pitching board games. I think it’s a testament to the simplicity and fun of the game. Unfortunately it’s hard for Hasbro to bring a game that’s only cards to market. There’s just not enough margin in a card game for Hasbro. Still, it was great to play a full game with Mike!

We showed him Pop Goes the Weasel and it skewed too old for Hasbro as well. He did say something that I don’t think was part of our NDA and that was that Hasbro doesn’t want to publish a party game that just a box full of cards. They want to be able to have a commercial with something in the commercial that people can identify with and see that it’s a unique game with unique pieces. I thought Pop Goes the Weasel would be a better fit than Clunatics (our party game that is a bunch of cards in a box!!).

It was a great pitch session and it looks like we are now on the list to pitch to Hasbro in the future – which is awesome! Up next is our last pitch session with a new and upcoming publisher called Mercury Games.

Previous posts in this series:

  1. Intro and overview of the Gathering
  2. Pitching to publishers overview
  3. Pitching to Asmodee and Repos
  4. Pitching to Filosofia and Z-Man Games
  5. Pitching to Asmodee, R&R Games and Abacuspiele
  6. Pitching to ThinkFun

-Jay Cormier

Gathering: Pitching to ThinkFun

Continuing in our series that recounts the experiences we had at this year’s Gathering. Here are the previous posts in this series:

  1. Intro and overview of the Gathering
  2. Pitching to publishers overview
  3. Pitching to Asmodee and Repos
  4. Pitching to Filosofia and Z-Man Games
  5. Pitching to Asmodee, R&R Games and Abacuspiele

What’s great about the Gathering is that everyone is wearing a name badge. Even better than that, the name badges are colour coded so you can tell if someone is new to the Gathering, a 20 year veteran to the Gathering – or a Publisher! How great is that? At other conventions, the publishers have booths, so it’s pretty easy to know who they are, but their objective at most conventions is to sell games. At the Gathering, their objective is to have some fun playing games – as well as check out some pitches for new games.

This means that you can approach publishers at the Gathering to see if they’re looking at submissions right now. For me, this worked perfectly. I would see a Blue Badge (the colour of publishers) and ask them if they’re looking at prototypes while they’re here at the Gathering. Sometimes they’d be open to seeing pitches right away, while other times they’d schedule me into a time slot on another day. I had a 100% success rate in approaching publishers and getting them to check out my prototypes! I love the Gathering! 🙂

ThinkfunlogoI approached Tanya from ThinkFun in the hall, and having remembered meeting her last year, said hi and asked her if she was looking at prototypes. She brought out her schedule and slotted me in for Friday at 11am. Sweet!

By the time Friday came, Sen was now at the Gathering, so we had maximum Bamboozle Brother effort in effect! This helped with our pitches a lot. I was still the main ‘pitch man’ but Sen helped in organizing and then in the discussions after the pitches. We found that this worked well and we avoided talking over each other this way.

We met up with Tanya and found an open table in the main room to pitch our games. Remember, we didn’t have time (or the files!) to print out any sales sheets, so I had to pitch the old fashioned way – by bringing out each game and showing them one at a time.

carry-onSide note: I had brought this carry-on bag with me to the Gathering that had a long handle and wheels. You know, the kind meant for carrying your laptop and some files? Well, I used this to lug all my prototypes around. I had packed my prototypes into separate baggies or the smallest box I could find. Space is definitely an issue when you’re bringing multiple games to pitch!

I would bring out a game, show her the logo and state the name of the game, then as I was opening it up and removing the necessary pieces (not all the pieces, just enough to show a demo), I would give the elevator pitch. I would explain the concept of the game and why I think it’s unique, or what I like most about the game.

Examples:

SimpliCITY: I really like tile laying games but I hate waiting for each person to play before it’s my turn – mostly because the board changes so much that I will usually just wait and not plan too much until it is my turn. In SimpliCITY, each person is working on their own city, but they are interacting by trying to achieve specific goals before other players.

SOS-ex1

Short Order Showdown: For some reason, I’m really good at quick reaction games. And when we played this one with friends, they liked it but said that they never wanted to play with me again because I always won. So what we did with this game is added a clever catch up mechanic to it that keeps it challenging for all players.

Lions Share: It’s a collecting game, but it has 3 unique features:

  • You play between players, so you’re playing against the player on your left and on your right
  • what you’re allowed to play changes each time a set is collected
  • when you do collect a set, you have to share half the cards with your opponents

And so we pitched game after game to Tanya and she took notes about each one. After we pitched pretty much every game we had to her (we forgot to pitch Top Shelf to her for some reason!), we found that almost 2 hours had passed! Tanya mentioned that most of her pitch sessions last 30 minutes…maaaaybe 60 minutes, so it was a testament to the quality of our games that she kept wanting to hear more pitches!

In the end she liked 4 of our games: Lost for Words, Chainables, EI-EI-O and Pop Goes the Weasel. She asked to have a sales sheet sent to her in the following week. Overall I was ecstatic with our pitch session with Tanya. She shares the same overall objectives as we do – which is that we all should help each other in this small world of game-making because it will only help all of us in the end. I can see a long a fruitful relationship with Tanya as we now have an open door to pitch anything in the future!

Update: We sent her the sales sheets and within a week or so we heard back that while none of the games we showed her were perfect for ThinkFun right now, she’d be open to seeing more from us in the future – which is always good!

Next up…the big one – we pitch to Hasbro!!! You’re not going to want to miss this one.

-Jay Cormier