SXSW Gaming just wrapped up their latest expo. In addition to the usual industry fanfare, this year indie game developers got a chance at the spotlight. SXSW Gaming introduced their first Pitch Competition. This inaugural event gave devs the unique opportunity to pitch their projects to a panel of industry veterans and experts.

Vidar developer, Dean Razavi talked about participating in the event and even making it to the finals over on the Razbury Games developer blog. The experience, while intense, provides invaluable access and feedback for upcoming developers.

Razavi released Vidar on Steam Early Access earlier this year. The bleak puzzle RPG surpassed its 2015 Kickstarter funding goal, raising over $19,000. The game focuses on randomized puzzles and narrative to tell the desperate story of a village on the brink of collapse.

Selling Your Idea

SXSW Gaming staff selected contestants during the October 2016 through January 2017 entry period. The competition was open to all independent developers with their own original projects. The first round saw 16 games competing in closed room sessions before a panel of 4 judges. Prior to their presentation, each developer was given 30 minutes to work with a mentor and refine their pitch.

Vidar is a unique 16 bit style RPG that's now funding on Kickstarter.

“This was tremendously helpful, because just talking it out helped me focus on the problem I wanted to emphasize with the judges,” Razavi wrote. “The only concern I had? How do you take the feedback from a 30-minute mentor session and immediately incorporate it into a 10 minute pitch? We didn’t have any time in between, so it was going to have to be done on the fly.”

Preparation and Perspiration Go Hand-In-Hand

This ability to improvise came in handy during the actual pitch. Razavi’s computer died 3 minutes into his presentation leaving him “slideless and defeated.” Luckily he’d had the foresight to bring print-outs to give the judges and was able to carry-on through his 10 minute presentation. In the end Vidar was chosen, along with 7 others, to continue to the final round.

Vidar is a unique 16 bit style RPG that's now funding on Kickstarter.

For the finals two more judges joined the panel and the public was invited to watch the pitches. While his computer held strong through the presentation, Razavi felt a bit let-down when the judges didn’t have many questions for him. “In legalese we call this a ‘cold bench.’ It’s worrisome. It means the judges aren’t engaged in your presentation, and I felt defeated. After one or two questions, I kind of realized that it was because Vidar is already on Early Access, and that my presentation had covered all of their other go-to questions for other presenters.”

Ultimately, Tessera Studios won the Pitch Competition with their VR thriller game, Intruders. Despite not winning, Razavi declared the event an invaluable experience. “I made it exactly where I wanted – the final round, to be able to present Vidar to the public. And afterwards, [I] ended up sticking around with the judges for over 2 hours just to chat about marketing, where Vidar goes from here, etc.”

The entry period for the 2018 SXSW Pitch Competition will open later this year. You can get updates and check out all of the 2017 contestants at the SXSW Gaming website. Vidar is available through Steam Early Access for $19.99.

About the Author

Joanna Mueller

Joanna Mueller is a lifelong gamer who used to insist on having the Super Mario Bros manual read to her as a bedtime story. Now she's reading Fortnite books to her own kiddo while finally making use of her degree to write about games as Cliqist's EIC.

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