Anatomy of the Perfect Game Sales Pitch

Hyper Light Drifter, having raised $645,158 when asking for only $27,000, was a huge success. I've spent the morning thinking about their Kickstarter video, and I'm pretty sure it's almost a perfect game sales pitch. Selling someone on something is largely about reducing risk. Hyper Light Drifter accomplishes this in two ways.

First, they overwhelm you with polish. They show you so many different zones, so many different animations, so many different enemies, all at such a consistently high level of quality that the viewer knows "these people are experts." No one wants to back something off of two pieces of concept art and a rough prototype because they don't know that the game will deliver; there is a lot of risk in that transaction.

Second, they don't subvert your expectations. Once someone has bought into something, they love their expectations being played with. However, when purchasing, they want to feel like they know exactly what they're getting into. The gameplay appears straightforward, and pretty much anyone who's played an isometric action game before will feel like they know what they're getting into. They're not selling you on some hot new innovative gameplay type that even though you can't play it at this point, you should trust them that it's the best and give them your money. You can pretty much play Hyper Light Drifter with your imagination after watching this pitch video. That makes the potential buyer feel safe, and reduces the perceived risk. Who knows, perhaps the game will have some incredibly creative and unique gameplay once it's released, but selling someone on that through a video is very very difficult.

Let's dissect the video shot-by-shot.


Opens with a shot of a very cool looking character in front of a beautiful world. Immediately we know 1. who we will be playing as (and boy do we want to play as them, because they look ridiculously rad) and, 2. the world that we are involved in (and boy do we want to be involved in it because just look at it, I'm already building 11,320 stories in my head about what goes on in that background).


The second shot shows the player moving through the world. The most important thing that this does is frame the type of gameplay. We know it's not first person, not side-scrolling, but it's isometric. The shot also shows how the attention to detail from the opening shot carries over into the actual gameplay worlds.


The second shot also shows the blink move that the player has. Immediately there's a gameplay hook. This blink move exists in a lot of games, but honestly I can't think of one that exists in a game styled like this. And the move looks awesome as well. The second shot ends by the player moving down stairs – now the viewer knows there's verticality to the movement.


The third shot shows another beautiful zone that looks entirely different from the first zone. As the opening shot showed, this world has a lot of peaks, valleys, and locales to it. This shot shows that these locales will also be explored. It also introduces that the player can move up in the isometric world, not just across or down.


The fourth shot shows yet another different zone. Completely different, completely consistent in its beauty. This is establishing that the creators are good at what they do. They can consistently create varied, awesome content. All this variation in the trailer isn't only building the world, it's building a trust in the viewer that the creators are really really good at what they do.


Next we have a series of dungeon shots. These shots are tantalizing the viewer with possibilities and questions. What created these dungeons? What are these monsters lurking around? What are these creatures in these huge water tanks? It also shows that the blink mechanic shown in the second shot will play an important role in the exploration of these worlds. They also establish that they are really really good at lighting things beautifully, something that couldn't be established in the previous outdoor shots.


So the world has been established, the beauty has been established, the movement has been established. At this point the trailer dives into gameplay. Quickly the viewer pieces together some of the things that will be going on in this game – dodging obstacles, slicing dudes in the most beautifully-animated way possible, using a cool Starfox-in-Super-Smash-Brothers reflector move to avoid projectile damage, using some kind of super version of the previously-revealed blink move to dodge obstacles, riding and controlling mechs, using the just-revealed reflector move to throw projectiles back at enemies, fighting some crazy bosses, the list goes on.


At 1:26 we come back to the world. Remember all that awesome stuff you just saw happening for the last 30 seconds? Reminder: it's happening in a bonkers awesome world, and here are what look like the bad guys behind it. And no surprises, they look awesome.


And a beautiful title shot to seal the deal. And just as you were about to forget how amazingly beautiful this world is and how much you wan to be a part of it they leave you with this:


I didn't even read the rest of the page. I backed this project right away after watching that video. I cared about the world, and I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to play that character. But most importantly, as a purchaser I felt almost no risk that this was going to not be a good game.


p.s. I'd love to meet you on twitter