Alex Josef has heard a lot of game pitches over 25 years in the industry, working across marketing, PR, consulting, and publishing.
And while he's seen pitches for all kinds of games, he's run up against one problem again and again: there are a lot of potentially great games out there being pitched by developers that don't have any experience or knowledge on how to pitch their great idea.
Josef began noticing this problem in earnest during his time at VIM Global, a consulting company where he worked alongside fellow VIM partner Alex Van Lepp. The two were told repeatedly that they should get into publishing, and so alongside their work at VIM launched Graffiti Games in 2018, with Josef as CEO and Van Lepp as marketing director.
Graffiti Games is focused on indie titles, but speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Josef says he kept getting pitch decks missing "huge chunks of information," or without a clear ask, or without identifying a target audience.
"The idea was to create a very definitive resource for indie developers to enable them to successfully launch, market, and sell their games"
"Some pitch decks were great, but they were usually more experienced developers that had been at it for a while," Josef says. "And there was information out there, but you really had to hunt to find it."
Which is why Josef and Van Lepp are now launching a new initiative: Indie Game Coach, a resource, consulting, and support initiative specifically to help small and new independent studios.
"Indie Game Coach was this culmination of feedback and what we'd seen from indie developers," Josef says. "The mystery for them was the business side of launching their games. The creative side, they were great on, but the whole business side can sometimes be lost on the artist.
"The idea was to create a very definitive resource for indie developers, brand new indie developers, or inexperienced indie developers, where they can find information to enable them to successfully launch, market, and sell their games."
Indie Game Coach will contain a wide range of resources that also come at a range of price points. There will be a weekly podcast available for free, where Josef and Van Lepp will talk about specific subjects relevant to games marketing and publishing, and will also occasionally interview industry veterans on their expertise, or record live coaching sessions with independent developers as they help them navigate marketing or development hurdles.
"People had pitch decks where they didn't think of certain costs in their funding. They weren't really coming in with correct numbers"
Aex Van Lepp
Also made available for free are a number of downloadable templates for things like budgeting and other business documents, which Van Lepp believes will help Indie Game Coach stand out from other collections of industry advice and resources.
"One thing coming from the publishing side is that we saw people had pitch decks where they didn't quite understand cost or didn't think of certain costs, such as localization, in their funding," Van Lepp says. "Because of that, they weren't really coming in with correct numbers. So these templates will be able, [if a developer] never thought of QA or localization costs, even though they won't have necessarily those numbers, at least now they're thinking about it because it's in a template."
Some elements of Indie Game Coach will be behind a paywall, such as online courses, webinars, office hours for consulting services, and other similar content. Josef says it will aim to provide a mix of low-cost options for all their content types, including sliding payment scales, and will likely offer pro bono consulting on occasion -- including as a prize for ten developers in a contest to celebrate the launch.
Ultimately, the goal is to ensure the services are available to developers who lack the experience and knowledge Indie Game Coach provides, which frequently goes hand in hand with not having much funding available to pay for that kind of guidance.
"There are a ton of great, great games that we see, especially on the publishing side, that nobody's heard of," Josef says. "They launch on Steam and nobody's ever heard of them, but they're fantastic games.
"I talked to a guy the other day, this 19-year-old kid who's a VR developer, he's in school. And he had a couple of really cool games, launched one on Steam, and it just didn't do anything. He had no real clue how to launch, like optimizing his store page, visibility rounds, doing any kind of an announcement or sending out codes to reviewers... or even potentially working with a publisher to help distribute the game in places other than Steam. He just had no experience and no knowledge of that, but it was a great game. So that's the target audience [for Indie Game Coach].
"Our goal is, let's say a couple years down the road, that there's a significant number of developers that can say as a result of... working with Indie Game Coach, or just listening to the podcast, or downloading courses or resources, it helped them to launch their game more successfully than they would have without that resource."