Indie games can allow creators to think outside the box, bucking mainstream trends to do work that’s more original and daring. But while creating those games can be liberating from a creative standpoint, gaining financial momentum for pitches can be a debilitating process. The Pitch Ya Game contest was created in response to this reality, with a goal of helping indie game developers gain the exposure and clout that might help them secure the financial support they need. The team behind Pitch Ya Game created the hashtag and award show to platform indie game developers to a wider audience, and allow them to compete in a contest where they can earn cash prizes for their pitches.
Pitch Ya Game was started as a hashtag by Liam Twose in May of 2020, though since then the team has expanded to include Thom Clancy, who hosts the contest’s awards broadcasts on Twitch, and operations manager Danelle, AKA Indie Game Lover. Twose said the idea originated as a way to help give independent game devs a platform to spotlight their games and possibly get picked up by publishers. Now, it has evolved into a full-fledged contest, complete with prizes and awards ceremonies. Entries have just closed for the latest contest, and the team is currently sifting through the mountain of submissions they received to determine the winners who will be announced on the next awards show.
Developers submit their games for the contest via Twitter. The rules stipulate that developers are only allowed to give an elevator pitch for one game they are working on in an original tweet accompanied by the hashtag #PitchYaGame. Under those tweets, contestants can add supplemental information about their game pitch. And the contest has already made a difference in the lives of some indie developers.
Indie game developer DmawXXX, a modeler on the currently in development Little Kitty, Big City, was able to get funding for his VR game Sushi Ben after he pitched his concept through the hashtag. In DmawXXX’s experience, pitches to big publishers aren’t taken seriously unless tweets about indie games go viral with at least a thousand likes.
While it’s easier for VR games to stand out amongst the saturated crowd of indie games to get funding opportunities, one drawback VR games have is that publishers are less willing to take a leap on a pitch unless it is doing numbers on social media. Making matters more difficult for DmawXXX was the fact that Sushi Ben involves chopping it up in the kitchen rather than blasting people with guns. Prior to posting under the hashtag, he didn’t have many followers and whenever he pitched to publishers, he got nonstop rejections. The Pitch Ya Games hashtag seemed like his best shot at funding Sushi Ben.
“Might sound silly, but as soon as I had a tweet go viral, my DMs were filled with publishers and other people looking to get involved,” he said. Pitching with the contest’s hashtag led him to get the entirety of his VR game funded. The contest also allowed DmawXXX to practice describing the concepts of his games before pitching them to industry publishers.
“My whole life has been changed thanks to a single hashtag on Twitter because if the initial funding source didn’t reach out to me after seeing one of my Pitch Ya Game posts, I wouldn’t have been able to use it to negotiate other deals to get the rest of the funding needed for the game,” he said.
Pitch Ya Games initially started out as a monthly event, but Clancy said that this frequency made judging entries “difficult and unwieldy.” Now, award shows are held twice a year, and entry periods occur in June and November. This model makes the event a lot more manageable from a live production perspective on Twitch.
Indie Game Lover says she feels like a kid in a candy shop whenever pitching rounds begin.
It never stops being exciting because each time, she not only gets to discover new games from developers she’s never seen before, but also gets to check out new pitches from developers who have participated in the past.
“There are always loads of games that crop up I have never seen before and just as exciting is watching previous participants pitch again. I love seeing ones rise up the ranks with new pitch attempts and being amazed that each round has some kind of gems to be found,” she said.
She said that she thinks many people don’t quite grasp just how difficult it can sometimes be for an indie developer to land a publisher, or how long the process can take. Putting together pitches, making the rounds, securing funding—it’s a huge, time-consuming process.
“However, indie games do have advantages of being free to try ideas that larger companies can not,” she said. “Out there are loads of cool and unique concepts to be found potentially leading to the next unique breakout hit or next rock solid addition to common genres. This is where the publishers come in to try and find those special gems and help them reach further audiences and resources than they could have on their own.”
Twitter algorithms can cause some of these pitches to get lost in the shuffle, so Indie Game Lover created a Google Sheet where she compiled over 1000 of the pitches they received in the latest entry period, as well as the handles of the game developers behind them, in case players (or potential publishers) wanted access to a comprehensive list of this month’s pitches.
Currently, the team is making their way through all those pitches they received, and hope to announce the winners sometime later this year during their awards show livestream and on their website.
“Ultimately [Pitch Ya Game] is about opening doors; and we’re super proud of how far it has come,” Twose said. While the fun part for the team is ahead of them, here’s 10 games that caught my eye in the hashtag that gamers might want to keep their eyes on as well.
Wander Stars, developed by Paper Castle Games, is a turn-based RPG with a dash of roguelike elements. If its throwback Saturday morning, 90s anime aesthetic didn’t already floor you, its mechanic where you create powerful attacks by using your shonen vocabulary to decide their awesome special attack names will.
Little Kitty, Big City, developed by Double Dagger Studio, is an exploration game about a black kitty who is trying to make his way back home. The game’s trailer gave me Katamari Damacy vibes but instead of a prince trying to earn your father’s respect, you play as a cat who can apparently wear hats and is said to “leave more than a little chaos in your wake.” That premise alone has secured its spot in my wishlist.
Ailuri, developed by Vivink Studios, is a 2D platformer that follows an adorable, endangered red panda who battles their way through corrupt stone-golem-looking creatures in order to restore balance to the world. Someone must have told Vivink studios that I have an affinity for red pandas.
Morbid Metal, solely developed by Felix Schade, is a third-person, sci-fi, action roguelite game. Its trailer gave me Star Wars meets Destiny vibes, with the maneuverability of Warframe and the bravado of a samurai thriller. Its developer says you can shapeshift and do combos, which is enough to make my gamer brain go brr.
Letters, developed by 5am Games GmbH, is a word puzzle game where your choices shape how the story progresses. While playing as a girl named Sara, you are tasked with sending messages to her pen pals and solving riddles that will shape the kind of person Sara will grow up to be. A demo is already available to try out on Steam.
Cultic, developed by Jasozz Games, is a pixel art first-person shooter game that is also a tribute to old-school first-person shooter games. Fresh from death and armed solely with your gun and some dynamite, you blast chunky bits out of violent cult members as you make your way towards freedom.
SCHiM, developed by Ewoud van der Werf, is a 3D platform puzzle adventure game where you traverse the environment by jumping between shadows cast throughout a bustling city. You play as a creature called a schim that can never be separated from the human it’s attached to. Unfortunately, that’s what happens to the schim at the start of this game, who then seeks to be reunited with its human before it’s too late. Ganbatte, little schim!
Mothmen 1966, developed by LCB Game Studio, is a pixel art visual novel inspired by mid-20th century pulp fiction and 80s home computer graphics. You play as Lee, a college student who takes his girlfriend on a date under a meteor shower. Following the meteor shower, strange occurrences of humanoid creatures called mothmen start running amuck in the town. This game sounds like a dark and spooky time for anyone who’s partial to the eldritch horror that is mothman.
Bits & Bops, developed by Tempo Lab Games, is a collection of 2D animated rhythm-based mini games. The cute cartoon art style and bopping music from one Bits & Bops mini game, Hammer Time, has me both excited and envious that assembling whatever contraption you’re making in the game looks a whole lot breezier than my recent experience assembling my bookshelf.
I Just Want To Be Single, developed by m., is a visual novel dating simulation game where the twist is that you do not want to date the cast of eligible bachelorettes. In the game, you play as Aya, a socially awkward girl in her last year of high school, who only wants to make friends. Unfortunately, her new haircut starts turning heads and gets the attention of everyone in her class. Finally, a game just for me.
Updated: 11/20/2021, 4:27 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with material from an additional interview.