The Big Indie Pitch is a regular event run by the makers of Pocket Gamer and PC Games Insider. It sees indie developers engage in a speed-dating-styled pitching competition for fame and those sweet, sweet promotional packages.
The event gives indies five minutes to pitch their games to a panel of press, publishers and industry pundits. The judges then pick three winners and everybody gets valuable feedback.
The indie view
The Big Indie Pitch is getting bigger and bigger as we bring it to events all across the world. To give you an idea of what the event is like, who attends the events and the games on show, we've sat down with a number of past Big Indie Pitch contestants to offer their views.
Today, we're speaking to Elena Höge from Yaldi Games, who submitted Wholesome - Out and About to The Very Big Indie Pitch at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2022 sponsored by Jagex Partners, and walked away as the runner-up.
Sophia Aubrey Drake: Tell us a little about yourself and your indie studio - who is on the team, and what are their inspirations?
Elena Höge: Yaldi Games is a small but ambitious indie studio consisting of a team of 6. We have 2 amazing artists (one of them is actually my sister), 2 programmers, a tech designer and myself. I founded the studio with the inspiration to make games that go beyond digital. We want our games to integrate real life in a meaningful way and through that enrich our players' lives.
Tell us about Wholesome - Out and About that you pitched at the competition.
Wholesome is our first title - it’s a relaxing life simulator about living in harmony with nature. Explore, forage, garden, cook, craft and make friends with people and animals - it’s like Zelda BotW meets Stardew Valley. But we go beyond digital by including real plants, recipes and crafting instructions - so that players can learn new skills and recreate experiences at home in real life.
What do you think are the most unique and interesting aspects of Wholesome - Out and About that gamers may never have seen before.
Wholesome is unique because it integrates real life - so instead of escapism, it enables players to connect with real life and broaden their horizons. It ties into trends like cottagecore, plant-based diets, baking, DIY crafting, foraging, foodies and more - and has the ability to connect players to nature like no game did before. Especially players with anxiety or disabilities, or children growing up in large cities, will be able to enjoy nature by playing the game.
Wholesome - Out and About is a community-driven life that also has educational elements too. What made you choose this genre, and what do you think you bring to it that may not have been seen before?
Life sims are increasingly popular because they are relaxing and inclusive. There are more and more gamers who enjoy playing non-violent games. Life sims are also perfectly suited for the integration of real life elements. Take foraging for example: by using real life plants and mushrooms and modelling them to look like the real thing we enable players to learn about nature and get real life value from it - without it impacting gameplay or fun. So Wholesome is not an “educational” game, it’s just a game that enriches players' lives beyond just the digital experience.
How did you come to choose the platforms that you would develop Wholesome - Out and About for?
We’d like to do Early Access on PC because it’s easily accessible and allows us to have an efficient, data-driven feedback loop with our players. And then we want to port it to Nintendo Switch and Xbox. We know the Switch is hugely popular and many of our fans on TikTok have repeatedly asked if the game would be available on Switch - so we know that’s where our main audience is.
Looking at the studio a little more now. How hard is it to survive as an Indie developer?
From my own experience, it all depends on the product and game you are making. And what your past experience is. Some devs can easily raise money, especially in the mobile space, others don’t even have a chance at winning grants (which there are very few of for games in general). We have been fortunate because Wholesome is such an all-rounder. It fits into many spaces, such as tech, games, Edtech and mental health/wellbeing. So I was able to compete for funding in a much bigger pool of grants. Others aren’t that lucky.
Are there any tips and advice you would give to an independent developer out there who are just starting out?
I think it’s very important to think deeply about what game you are going to make. What’s the market? Who’s your audience? What does the competition look like, why would people play your game and not theirs? Do you have the potential to build a community around your game? What’s the business model? do you just want to make a game and move on to the next, or do you want to build a business? I would say make sure you have the answers to those questions because it will really help you long term. Also, make sure you gather a team if you can before starting out. That’s something I didn’t do and learned the hard way.
How did you find your experience pitching as a part of the Big Indie Pitch?
It was fun. It consisted of a series of 5 pitches to 10 different people. It was very relaxing so I just enjoyed the experience.
What do you feel you have gained from the experience, and what do you still hope to gain?
I’ve learned a lot since starting out - especially through the mistakes I made. I’m taking it all in and improving every step of the way. I want to build a strong team so that we can raise investment to make the company big. I know that Wholesome has great potential to improve and enrich players' lives so it is my dream to make that happen.
What are your hopes for this game in the future, and do you have any plans for any future projects?
I’m determined to make Wholesome a success - I want to build a community filled with curious and caring people who come together to celebrate nature and sustainability and to share their own individual knowledge about recipes and crafting. We can let players create and trade their own ideas inside the game which will turn Wholesome into much more than a game - it will become a platform for social sharing and play. There is a lot we can add to Wholesome so I have a long list of DLCs and updates planned, e.g. we can add new regions of the world, like India or New Zealand, and add their own flora and fauna, recipes and traditional crafts. So there’s still a lot to do. Of course, I already have plans for new games but I won’t let myself be distracted by them for now.
Want to show off your exciting new game? We host Big Indie Pitch events throughout the year, so be sure to keep an eye out on our events page for an event near you, or even our new Digital pitches.