At Kongregate we have the privilege of working with a wide variety of game developers, many of whom are enthusiastic to open up their game pitches with an x-statement. X-statements attempt to summarize a game succinctly using two subjects, often referencing other video games, mechanics, art styles, or popular media. Very often they look like this:
“My game is Crossy Road meets Mad Max.”
“What if Towerfall had Dark Souls-style sword combat?”
“I’m working on a game that is Cooking Mama meets Elite Beat Agents.”
Developers view x-statements as a thesis to a game pitch. Well-crafted x-statements can evoke both a sense of gameplay and market positioning, transporting a reader to really understand where your game is going. Likewise, a poorly crafted x-statement can be damaging, setting the wrong tone and ultimately damaging the concept or creating confusion around what is being created.
As a publisher, x-statements give us a glimpse into the mind of game developers. An x-statement says a lot about how game developers think they should be marketing a game to their audience. It shows succinct critical thinking in the positioning of their product. And as a publisher and platform, we want to be sold on the product as much as the consumer will be.
Because we’ve seen so many x-statements, we wanted to share some thoughts on how to best craft a great x-statement.
Anchor your first element in similarity
The first element in your x-statement should tell the reader what thing your game is most similar to. Try to be as explicit as possible, finding the reference that sets the right tone and correlation to your actual game. Often this is a game. Good first elements (with my immediate reactions) could be:
“Crazy Taxi meets ________”
Okay, I know this game is attempting to be a delivery/courier arcade-style title.
“Cuphead meets __________”
I’m thinking a tough-as-nails 2D boss-rush game, probably several bosses all with unique styles.
“Hunger Games meets __________”
This is going to be a last-man-standing dog-eat-dog video game, probably barbaric.
It's also important to invoke the right energy. In the end this is a pitch attempting to drive excitement toward your game. There’s a very strong difference between “Chess meets…” and “Prey meets…” so compare accordingly.
Anchor your second element in market differentiation
With a strong first element, the second element is going to attempt to explain how your game is truly different and can stand out in the marketplace. Treat it as a modifier to not just the element but to any preconceived assumptions of genre, game styles, and tropes. You want your game to be different enough, but explainable to your audience. Here are some example second elements:
OK: “Crazy Taxi meets Fantasy”
This is just OK. Fantasy isn’t invoking any particular imagery because so many attributes define this genre, but it gets me close.
GREAT! “Crazy Taxi meets Alice in Wonderland”
OK, now I know exactly what kind of fantasy we’re talking about and what sort of experience this could be.
OK: “Cuphead meets Diablo”
Sometimes imagery is a little too broad. "Cuphead and Diablo" is invoking a heavy mix of different genres and art styles.
GREAT! “Cuphead meets Diablo Loot Grind”
Defining your subjects a bit more can really help hone in on the imagery. While RPG Loot Grind doesn’t give a strong marketing position, it gets us much closer.
OK: “Hunger Games meets online multiplayer”
Sometimes imagery is too weak and doesn’t differentiate from the core subject. Hunger Games is already multiplayer in-nature, and this just reads as raw Hunger Games.
GREAT! “Hunger Games meets modern military shooter”
I just possibly described PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, but you get the picture.
Use X-statements Responsibly
It's very easy to abuse x-statements. Here are a few things to consider when crafting your x-statements:
Stay on-message. Make sure the x-statement describes the actual game and marketing positioning. We’ve had a large share of games try to leverage incredibly popular genres or titles just because they were popular or financially successful. “Minecraft meets Destiny” is not going to impress anyone unless it's actually that game (that sounds fun!).
Don’t use two similar games. Part of your goal is to capture market positioning. If you pitched me “Words with Friends meets Scrabble” I’m going to have a very strong idea of what you’re pitching, but zero idea of marketability.
Don’t use obscure comparisons. Try to use easily relatable subjects. Dropping an obscure cultural reference won’t do anything for the reader.
Cater to the audience. You know whom you’re pitching to, so make sure that audience in attuned to what you’re pitching and that your relative subjects make sense.