We had an opportunity to speak with toy and game industry veteran, Mike Hirtle, and asked what he looks for when a new toy or game concept is being shown to him. As the Head of Inventor Relations for Tyco and Hasbro for many years, Hirtle has seen over 20,000 ideas for toys and games presented to him.
Here are his suggestions for what makes a good pitch.
Tip #1: Less Talk and More Play
Get right into it. An industry professional has seen a lot of ideas and doesn’t want to listen to you prattle on about how you came up with the idea, why it is the greatest game idea since the earth cooled, how all of your precious loved ones agree with you on that and so on.
I enjoy meeting with the kids at the Young Inventor Challenge at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. Most of them do a better job than some of our professional inventors and almost all newbies. That is because their teachers have taught them how to present.
“Hello, my name is ________, My game is called ________, and the object of the game is ______. Let me show you.”
Moves me to tears.
Tip #2: Stack the Deck
Show your game in its best light. If your game involves cards, make sure the best cards are at the top. We might assume that the rest are of the same sterling quality, but lead off with your best stuff. If it’s a card game, make up sample hands that show the best features.
I have seen many professional designers, presenting in meetings to senior managers, draw a question card from a deck and then sheepishly put it on the bottom of the deck saying, “that’s not a very good one”.
Arrrrgh. That moves me to tears in a different way.
Tip #3: Stack the Dice
This is a corollary to 2. I don’t know what the right term should be but it means that instead of rolling dice in a path game, assume a roll.
How many times do you suppose I have seen a presenter roll a five and move to the “Lose a Turn” space as their first move.
Tip #4: Focus on the Game's USP
That means Unique Selling Point. What is the single coolest element of your game? What is the essence of it? What is the Big Wow that we all look for? You should be able to pitch your game in well under one minute.
I mean it.
Tip #5: LISTEN
This is pretty obvious. We know you love your game as much as you love your kids, but listen to the advice you will be given.
and, all of the foregoing notwithstanding…
Tip #6: Don’t lose your passion
The pros aren’t always right. Usually, but not always.