How to pitch your indie game to Sony

How to pitch your indie game to Sony

"I'm sick of sitting through crap development pitches," Pete Smith, Sony XDev director of product development, told an audience of developers at GDC Europe last week. Smith handles all of the European studios looking to snag a publishing deal on Sony systems, and he helped games such as Heavy Rain and the Motorstorm series race into the public eye.

Smith knows what he wants in a pitch, but just as importantly, he knows precisely what he doesn't want. He gave an overview of his approach to independent pitches, and then broke down a quick and dirty list of "do's" and "do not's." Read through Smith's pet peeves and praises below.


  • Know what your game is. Be able to pitch your game in 30 seconds, and make sure your entire development team has a cohesive idea of what its doing. Smith played a clip of the Motorstorm developers separately describing their game, all of them using the phrase "brutal, off-road racing." The CEO of EyeToy Lemmings developer Team 17, however, said "Um" and looked at the ceiling a lot.

  • Keep visuals simple and bold. Rip-o-matics work well as a quick and cheap option to showcase the main element of a game. Pre-rendered videos are expensive, but can work even when a project doesn't have a line of code to the actual game. Prototypes should demonstrate fun gameplay, not fancy graphics.

  • Research. Don't be the developer who asks, "What's a Vita?"

  • Manage your expectations. Sony will not back any game unless it will benefit the publisher itself, not just you. Be prepared to negotiate your IP: "Our goal is to get exclusive content," Smith said.

  • Be able to adapt. By the end of development, most games don't resemble their initial pitches; keep this in mind and know that it's natural.

  • Tailor your presentation. Pitching a game to Sony with a photo of XBLA controls might be a bad idea. Even Sony wants to feel special.

  • Sell yourself as a company and as individuals. Sony has to work with the people, not just the game idea. Even if the pitch doesn't fly, the team might. Media Molecule is a great example of Sony wanting to work with the people, and then following through.

  • Practice your pitch. Just like momma always said.

  • Choose the right person for the pitch. The head of the company may not be the best person to deliver a pitch, hinging on language barriers, knowledge about the project or presentation technique. Pick someone on the team who can talk about your game to a room of suits with ease.

  • Have assets. These include a one-page overview, screenshots or video, all on a USB stick for the publisher to keep. Don't waste time or money on swag.

  • Show passion. If you don't care, why should Sony?

Do not:

  • Be boring. Make the presentation engaging and funny in appropriate places. Show some personality.

  • Bitch and whinge about other developers or publishers. It's a small industry.

  • Spend the entire time on your pitch. Leave room for Sony to ask questions and clarify your points.

  • Bullshit. Sony's people know what they're doing and will be able to tell if you don't. Don't make things up if you truly don't know the answer.

  • Tell publisher how to do his job. Don't tell Sony why it's a terrible publisher, and definitely don't tell Smith what he does wrong.

  • Be late. Again, we're sure momma told you the same thing.

  • Be hungover. Pitches are many times conducted during industry conferences, the night after blow-out parties. You have the rest of your life to drink; maybe take the night off if you have a presentation in the morning.