Pitching Games at Conventions

Tyler Tinsley writes to ask:

I just listened to a recording of a freelancing seminar you had at GAMA. I just wanted to say thanks. While I have been sending games to companies for a few years, I just got my first gig as a freelance game designer and hearing your words have helped.

I want to start going to the big game conventions to pitch games to publishers in person. My funds are limited, so I wanted to know what con is the best to pitch to a wide range of publishers, and what is the best way to set up meetings? I make a wide range of games so any publishers will do.

I’m glad you liked the podcast. Congratulations on landing your first freelance game design gig.

There are three that are worthwhile for hobby games: GAMA Trade Show (GTS), Origins, and Gen Con.

GTS just ended this week, but you could make plans for next year. It’s a trade show, so there’s less competition with players to get a publisher’s attention. However, some of the publishers have so many business meetings that they don’t have time for freelancers who drop by the booth. Of course, that’s true of just about any show, so the thing to do is schedule as many meetings as you can ahead of time.

Origins is a good show, and it’s less busy than Gen Con. However, not as many publishers attend. Those that do, though, should have time for you. It also has the best networking hang-out: the Big Bar on 2 at the Hyatt.

Gen Con is my favorite show, bar none. It’s the biggest and busiest in the country, though, and many publishers are there to sell games rather than talk to freelancers. Again, scheduling meetings ahead of time can really help here.

Of course, if you’re trying to work on mass-market games, there are other shows to attend, like the New York Toy Fair or the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. And if you prefer European-style board games, nothing beats Spiel, the largest gaming convention in the world, held in Essen, Germany, every fall.

To set up any meeting, start well ahead of time, as a busy publisher’s schedule fills up fast at most conventions. First, hit the website of the company you’d like to pitch your game to, and read their submissions guidelines. Then contact the publisher or editor and request a meeting at the convention you plan on attending.

Good luck!