Pitched and ditched

The process of pitching games can be a lengthy process full of pitfalls, and not even the best and brightest of developers are guaranteed to have their ideas approved. As a companion piece to GameSpot's in-depth look at the pitching process, here are a handful of anecdotes about games that could...

The process of pitching games can be a lengthy process full of pitfalls, and not even the best and brightest of developers are guaranteed to have their ideas approved. As a companion piece to GameSpot's in-depth look at the pitching process, here are a handful of anecdotes about games that could have been:

Lorne Lanning, president of Oddworld Inhabitants
I pitched to a big publisher a game about dogs called Pound Dog. There were about 15 people in the room, and they all loved the pitch. It was gonna be great, but then one guy, who of course doesn't play games and is about to retire, says, "But who wants to be a dog?" Everyone looks at him 'cause he's the boss, then they come looking back at me, shaking their heads and saying, "Yeah, but who wants to be a dog?" Six or seven months later, Nintendogs came out to huge sales. If the capacity of your vision for what titles could be and what makes them resonate with an audience is "who wants to be a dog," then OK, go make your next shooter with 2 percent new mechanics and better graphics.

Will Wright, designer of SimCity, Spore
There are things I pitched that I, in going over the development process, decided to drop for one reason or another. I've always been fascinated with airships, and I wanted to do a game about the Hindenburg. And it was originally conceived as a cross between Myst and a flight simulator, if you can imagine that. You basically wake up on the Hindenburg. You're all alone. It's flying toward Lakehurst, New Jersey. You can walk anywhere on the ship. You can turn lights on and off. You can steer. You can adjust the engines. But every time you come into Lakehurst, it blows up. And you have to figure out why, and it becomes like this weird mystery flight simulator thing. I'd still love to do that.

Oddly enough, every time I talked to people about this game, the one thing they all got hung up on was, wasn't that a Nazi airship? Which was interesting because Nazi air force commander Hermann] Goering hated it. In fact, the guy who built it really had to sign this deal with the devil to get the Nazis actually to finance it because the Nazis wanted to use it as a propaganda tool. And they painted a swastika on the tail, and they'd fly all these propaganda missions. And so it got inexorably linked to the Nazis, unfortunately for the inventor. But it was a beautiful craft. And I just thought it was a wonderful kind of cool idea for a game.

Dylan Cuthbert, Q Games founder, PixelJunk Racers and StarFox developer
Many years ago, we fleshed out a game on the PC with similar elements to Spore. We had fractally generating worlds and buildings/towns and creatures that evolved. Also, we made it LAN playable with up to 16 players and experimented with distributable networking so the game could possibly run with hundreds or thousands of people. The world also had a fully developed and simulated ecosystem with humidity, winds, temperature fluctuations, and so on affecting plant life and types of terrain (you could actually watch hurricanes form from the overview map).

All in all, it was actually quite cool, even if I do say so myself, and we showed it to a hell of a lot of publishers, and they also thought it was cool, but none of them would risk money on something of that experimental scope. After about a year of talking to Microsoft, they funded us to prototype it as a game, rather than an experiment, but it got dropped when they started refocusing stuff in their Japan studio.

I should have taken it to Will Wright.

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Discussion

130 comments
Cloud737
Cloud737

I remember reading about each of these somewhere on GS before, I just can't remember where specifically. Anyway, to reiterate what I thought and still think, that idiotic retard that didn't even play games (what in the world was he doing there, anyway?) should have been fired, sliced to pieces and fed to the dogs. Because of his humongous closed-minded preconception and megalithic arrogance, that publisher lost millions of dollars in possible revenue. Good choice, indeed! I bet after that he'd have preferred being born a dog rather than a human so he wouldn't have gone through such a shame. I'm still hoping to see a game based on Will Wright's idea. It sounds really nice and intriguing. It even seems to have some atmosphere similar to The Longest Journey, which wasn't that bad. As for Dylan Cuthbert, I hope most developers are banging their heads against the walls right now for not daring to take some risks and earn a lot in return. It's like they'll only do games when there's at least 70% chance they'll make money off it. Take some risks from time to time (if they can afford it), and it will probably greatly pay off.

DangerClown
DangerClown

Just image the game IP that will never see the light of day. Games of the late 70s and early 80s were way more diverse in themes and subject matters than todays games.

Kwelkoth
Kwelkoth

I think it's kinda funny how mainstream movies that have been made into games aren't really even given a pitch. They just get automatically put into development for the almighty dollar. Hey, let's not pitch and develop a new and interesting game from original concepts....let's just put out Fellowship of the Ring and make a quick buck! Disgusting!

TheKungFool
TheKungFool

Unfortunately, I think we're going to hear alot more of this as companies like Electronic Arts keep buying up all the best independant developers.

Cltn2050
Cltn2050

I'd love to see that Hindenburg game get made. Sadly, I don't think there's much chance of any publisher taking a risk on something with such a weird premise. It's really a shame because I think a lot of people are growing tired of being handed the same games over and over again. Hell, I'm happy now just to see something that isn't optimized from the start for marketing to braindead frat-boys. Seriously, how many more times am I going to be forced to play as some goddamn space marine? Does this irritate anyone else?

Cltn2050
Cltn2050

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

urbsdad6
urbsdad6

Suits have no imagination and as a result who knows how many wonderful and inventive games could have been made rather than being shot by the school of let's play it safe. Obviously the vast majority of suits never made it to the frontlines of any war or conflict where risk taking can become a way of life. Suits are pathetic but a necessary evil like REMF's.

MrSNES
MrSNES

I'd love to see or hear the idea pitch for Portal. Specifically, the narration.

Gamer_152
Gamer_152

Interesting stuff, especially that last one, a shame it didn't atually go anywhere.

Sheiko
Sheiko

Interesting details. Would have really been nice to see some of these games produced in other flavors like a weird dog game by Lanning. Maybe someday.

greystone227
greystone227

I'm really liking these new articles that focus on the inner workings of the industry. Keep it up GameSpot!

MusashiSensi
MusashiSensi

What a world we live in when money making ideas get dropped.

osxgp
osxgp

I guess if you are to pitch a game idea that isn't the usual hack and slash, Nintendo would be where I would start.

KrustyKr
KrustyKr

I think he shouldn't have said well who would want to be a dog. If he had not said that he games would have been better

GriffinLord602
GriffinLord602

I love Will and Dylans idea's, its a shame that suits own and control everything, and spoil good ideas. But maybe it will come out one day.

GriffinLord602
GriffinLord602

I LOVE Dylans and Will's idea... i think that would be cool, but obviously theres some people that control stuff, and they dont like taking risks!... it could come out one day thought :)

theonlyJZ
theonlyJZ

Personally, I think Lanning's story is pur BS. I think the man's full of it. From the day he whined about the PS2 being to hard to write games for. Lorne, a lot of great games have come out for the PS2, how have your's been fairing...oh sorry to bring that up. As for Will Wright's "game" it sounds a lot like "Shadow Of Destiny" where you keep dying until you figure out how to prevent it. As someone here mentioned, the lack of innovation in games is PARTLY because of gamers who tend to shy away from something new. But, if you're going to create something different make sure that it will at least pique interest in gamers. No matter how many editors or reviewers told me to play "Okami", "Colossus" or "Pyschonauts" I'm not going to play a game that offers nothing of interest to me. Now you bring me a "Bioshock", "Mass Effect" and to a much lesser degree "Assassin's Creed" (I have a lot of probs with the game and WITHIN the game). These are games that appeal to a wider audience than "Okami the painting wolf." They've sold well and that should give us some new and innovative games that possess something that attracts all types of gamers. Perhaps we'd see the sequel to "BG&E" and (yes I am saying this because I really LIKED the game) "Advent Rising." So game makers, producers and publishers look for games that are different, but NOT niche like "Colossus" and "Okami." Gamers, if you find a game that is different and appeals to you, but it. Instead of the 486th version of "Tony Hawk." Arigatou, JZ

jogunther
jogunther

hopefully we will see more openminded developers. Why wouldn't someone want to play a dog(Zelda) and the hindenburg would have been a lot of fun to mess with.

nowitzki89
nowitzki89

Its a nice thing to say that the suits are to blame. However, when we do see innovative ideas and games that push boundaries it doesn't translate to sales. It sucks yes but thats the truth. 99% of people who buy and play games are not like those that frequent Gamespot. They really do base their purchasing decisions on advertising. Take a look at Psychonauts (look it up) and you have a game that goes against the norm, and is a fantastic game. Then you look at sales of that game and see what a failure it was in that sense. Making games is a costly and long process and given sales history its obvious what executives and publishers want. They want to make shareholders happy, which isn't you and I, and they want to have a job. Simple economics, again it sucks but thats the industry. It would be nice for publishers to take a leap of faith but that would be wholly unresponsible. Sales set precedents so when that generic FPS goes on to sell millions it only strengthens the fact that its easy to make a lot of money, if you follow what works and thats the 2% change and the same basic formula over and over.

upstartrex
upstartrex

Thanks to the developers for sharing! Lorne Lanning's tale's the funniest. Guys are grumpy jackasses when they invest in something because they know it's profitable, have no knowledge of how to manage it, and don't entrust management to those who do. If you want to buy an ice-cream store and reap some of its' profits for other projects -fine. If you want to learn from the owner the ins-and-outs of the place so you can do his job -fine. If you don't care about ice cream but think its' necessary to look over the employees shoulders to assert your authority -let it go. We should be sincere in the amount of involvement we want with a thing. A man who owns a business doesn't have to feign interest; it's in participating in a company's workings with recalcitrance that a man (even the owner) is a bother. Does anyone know a bastion of creativity on the Earth? Somewhere with the most influential man one who delights in others' prosperity and invention?

OkayOctane
OkayOctane

Interesiting article. The hindenburg game sounds like it would have been a lot of fun.

Cyncro
Cyncro

Square Enix's next pitch would go something like this: "So here's the new game idea pitch. It's another Final Fantasy." End of pitch. Game is released one year later.

Makhdoom82
Makhdoom82

Stories like these are not new ... i have been reading them since being a kid in Games related magazines ... They all have good ideas which are never appreciated by aged and stubborn people who cannot stay up to date with times ... Pretty sad !!!

goodemon
goodemon

speaking of vaporware, how about Psi-Ops 2...ARE YOU LISTENING MIDWAY? Oh how about I go back to the 90's...anyone remember "ThrillKill" ??? (look it up)

redskinStu
redskinStu

Money talks, suckers walk. That's the way of our world, baybee.

eyerok
eyerok

"OK, go make your next shooter with 2 percent new mechanics and better graphics." HAHAHAHAHA

Nocturnal15
Nocturnal15

The most pathetic part about the suits is that most of them arent even gamer and alot of them are wrinkled old prunes. I guess we will have to wait till the suits kick the bucket before we can have a huge rise in ORIGINAL games.

Anput_Destroyer
Anput_Destroyer

hey nemt, just so you know, dylan cuthbert's game is being made into a REAL game by Will Wright...its called spore and its one of the few games coming out in the industry that has an imaginative concept...games like (btw its called Spore) the oddworld series, puzle quest, bioshock, drawn to life, and even rockband are pushing the boundaries of gaming... good on ya GS for posting this article, it was a great read : )

nemt
nemt

The Hindenburg game sounds excellent - the other two..not so much.

ninjasam
ninjasam

The dogs story is understandably upsetting, but i still wonder who wants to be a dog. The game proposed by Will Wright sounds cool, but how would it do in todays market? The third game by Dylan could have succeeded very well in the pc market

okassar
okassar

Whoever is bias about this doesn't know what they're talking about.Both the Publishers and the Developers need each other and both play a role.Without the publishers,the developers will take too long and would probably not find a way around the money issue and there goes the gaming industry...without the devs...hell,there's no games.When the publishers are strict,they're doing their jobs and performing their right of figuring if their money is being invested good enough.Publishers also need to be strict so that the devs aren't lazy.If Bungie wasn't being pushed by Microsoft for Halo,Halo 3 would still be in the "Future Expectations" article of some magazine.That would...frustarate alot of people regardless whether it would have resulted in a good or bad way.So publishers do(or try to do) what's best for their money and the gaming industry and to see to it that the developers aren't going to ditch their expectations and be payed for trash.The developers have to live to to their expectations and the expectations of the GAMERS,not only that,but be able to CONVINCE the publishers in the first place SO THE MONEY CAN BE PUT DOWN and,hopefully,the good games can take their way.Without any of the two,nothing would work out.Don't say "poor oppressed developers".

Dryker
Dryker

I hope someday Lorne Lanning finds himself at the helm of some Next-Gen game. He's the reason I converted from a Playstation fanboy to an Xbox fanboy ( when it was announced that Munch's Odyssey was too much game for the Sony machine). Oddworld Inhabitants created some of my favorite games of all time... they just didn't sell well.

Phazevariance
Phazevariance

I'm pitching a game that has 2% better graphics and game mechanics over regular FPS titles, everyoen thinks it's kewl but the boss asked "but who wants to be a marine and die in battle?" and so it got dropped. 10 seconds later every FPS in the history of man came to light but none had that 2% better graphcis and mechanics I pitched. End of story.

_Ice2fire
_Ice2fire

I like Will Wright's idea; what a fantasy, to fly the Hindenburg; I love it. BTW the Nazis wanted to name it the Adolf Hitler but the Zeppelin people beat them to the punch by naming it the Hindenburg.

heroface
heroface

You know what? I really wish all these development studios would use their websites more to keep us all informed of these situations and to avoid making big mistakes like turning down all the ideas put forward above.. all of which would have been a hit.. all it takes is a consumer poll on the front page of their site (won't cost you a penny, except maybe 10 minutes of your IT guy's wage, so there's no excuse)

somberfox
somberfox

There should be a publisher who's sole purpose is to seek out odd/different ideas for games. Atlus comes close, but they mainly just work with RPGs.

7ate9
7ate9

Yep. It also happens to film makers and songwriters as well. If it's not going to be marketable and make lots of cash, it won't be supported. No surprise the gaming industry is any different.

FireNForget
FireNForget

I like Cuthbert's idea the most, but it sounds a lot like Spore.

Sorbet_1029
Sorbet_1029

That Hindenburg game sounds like fun...too bad they didn't make it...

Hydrolix
Hydrolix

That hindenburg game sounds awesome to me. I like story driven games. See the real reason that the 'suits' aren't taking risks is because we the gamers constantly tell them that all we want is the next big shooter. Oh, and Guitar Hero. How do we tell them that? With our gaming dollars.

chemeleon_789
chemeleon_789

You know, those last two games sound really f**king cool. I'd love to play them. Imagination in any area is a huge plus and it's heartening to know that game devs have it, even if they never get to use it. In all honesty I think western civilization is encouraging a lack of imagination in humans. Which is a shame, because it's one of the major things than separates us from, say, *ants*.

SMGrawks
SMGrawks

Holy freakin God. So the mystery Hindenberg game wasn't made because of the threat that kids would see the swastika on the tail and turn into Adolf Hitler the mythical embodiment of all cartoon evil.

TimDigit
TimDigit

That's why when you see a young fledge company or fx house spring up and you like their games, support them, because it seems too hard sometimes to get a dream sold to the dreamless.

P-Ublius
P-Ublius

This is a great article! Post more of these.

shadowraiX
shadowraiX

Tonkpilsnut -- "They should make a game where the point is to try to pitch really great ideas to people that don't play games at all. You spend hours, days, even weeks on ideas that could enrich the very lives of the gamers who play them, turning the industry on end and revolutionizing the entertainment medium as we know it!!!! Sadly, you will never make your game, you will subsequently be let go for "lack of motivation in your development team", and you will lose your family and end up homeless, wondering why you spent all those years at school, training for a job where all your work will be judged by people that have no right judging it all. What could we name this game.... Oh yeah, "Reality Of A Game Developer". That's it." Most like the "Worst-case Scearino in Gaming History" or "The Stupidity of Dealing with Publishers: Greed Edition". Don't have be so emo about it...

shadowraiX
shadowraiX

Will Wright should have just replaced the Hindenburg with some other possible famous airships so then the publisher don't got "ONOES!!! THERE'S NAZIS IN THIS GAME!" Then again, I could understand the possible mass chaos for this game's release and an advantage for Jack Thompson.... that bastard.

LorenaLarue
LorenaLarue

Even so there are still quite a lot of crazy Japanese games that are made every so often. I wonder how the pitch went for those. What would be funny is seeing a pitch for a Wii game seeing this guy doing all sorts of strange things with his hands in front of some investors.