There are many reasons one would pass on a game pitch, many of which have nothing to do with the pitch itself. Finding a publisher is very much like dating - the game being pitched must meet a bunch of the publisher’s needs in order for them to run with it. Imagine you’re the one in charge of green lighting new external projects. Here is a non-exhaustive list of potential reasons you might say no that have very little to do with the pitched game.
Your company doesn’t have the budget available. You’re strapped for cash and just don’t have the money currently available. Maybe you just bought a studio. Maybe your games from the last year didn’t sell well. Maybe you’ll have some room in the budget after the current game launches during the holiday season and starts earning some money, but you just don’t have the money available right now - it’s going to all of the other projects you’re already funding. Regardless, you just don’t have the money available to fund another game, no matter how good it sounds.
You’re already working on a similar game. You probably don’t want to cannibalize the sales of the game you’re already paying to develop, and you don’t want to split the audience. You’ve already got one African Mythology-inspired Action RPG with card mechanics in development, you really don’t need a second slightly-different one.
You’ve already got another major release planned for that release window. Cannibalizing sales is a thing if two games are released too closely to each other, especially if there’s some general overlap in the kind of game they are. You can’t really control other publishers, but doing it to yourself is kind of shooting yourself in the foot.
Your company and the pitched game are going in different directions. Maybe the pitch is for a short form linear single player narrative experience and your company has decided to grow its catalogue of multiplayer lifestyle games. Maybe it’s for a dialogue-driven narrative story, but your expertise is in competitive esports titles.
The pitched game is for a platform you’re scaling back on (or not supporting altogether). Maybe you decided that VR isn’t working or mobile marketing costs too much, or that there just aren’t enough sales on the Nintendo consoles to justify it. Maybe you’re sunsetting all of your last-gen development and the pitch is for the PS4/Xbone. If your company just isn’t supporting that platform anymore, you’re probably not going to green light a new game for it.
These reasons don’t take any of the details of the pitch itself into account either - the budget, the marketing, the licensing, the business plan, the game design, the development team, the project leadership, and so on are all incredibly important to whether you would say yes. Remember, as the one in charge of green lighting new projects, you need to be judicious. You only have so much funding and so many release slots per year you can fill. Even if the game sounds great, it might not be the best fit for your company and its needs right now. You absolutely must make the best choices you can for the good of the company and its shareholders, and there’s a hundred more pitches after this one that are all hoping for your attention and funding.
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