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How does the name of a game relate to how popular it becomes? Have there been studies around this subject? Are people influenced by the name of a game?

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very subjective, should be community wiki –  David Young Aug 5 '10 at 20:54
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I don't think this is subjective, as I am looking for information based off psychology or other research. I am sure there will be a "best answer". –  Adam Harte Aug 5 '10 at 22:39
    
It isn't a real answer, but it is amusing and turned up in my internet wanderings today: norefuge.net/vgng/vgng.html –  coderanger Aug 6 '10 at 3:38
    
Could be answered. Varies, Yes, and Yes. The issue is less subjectivity but more that it is very vague. –  Noctrine Aug 6 '10 at 6:02
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9 Answers 9

up vote 26 down vote accepted

A great name can help a solid game gain press and get gamers talking about it. Here's our checklist for naming our titles:

  • A name should be visually interesting. For example, people remember Terry Cavanaugh's "VVVVVV" in part because of the shape of the name.
  • It should be descriptive. When Cliffski named his latest title "Gratuitous Space Battles," people knew exactly what it was about. It doesn't have to be quite that blatant, but grounding the reader can help him/her figure out what the heck you're trying to give them.
  • It should polarize people. It's okay if some people absolutely hate it.
  • And it should be remarkable. That is to say that it should make people talk about it. People chuckle about "I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1" and tell their friends.

Strong note: Your mileage may vary! What works for us might not be right for you -- everyone's goals are different. But naming our BASE jumping simulator "AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity" fit all these criteria and helped us get the word out. Journalists remembered the title; gamers argued over whether they loved the name, or if we were horrible people; it pretty much describes the game; and it got people talking.

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It's a terrible name to google however, if you only know the "AAAaaaAaAaaaaAAaaaaAAAAAA!!" part. Just one A too little or too many reveals completely irrelevant results: google.de/search?q=AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAA I do agree with all other aspects though. –  LearnCocos2D Aug 7 '10 at 13:50
    
If it is popular enough Google will autocomplete it for you anyway. –  Adam Harte Aug 14 '10 at 1:43
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@TandemAdam: it won't become popular if you can't google it in the first place –  Lohoris Sep 28 '10 at 21:29
    
It's easy to google "a reckless disregard for gravity", and google does autocomplete that for me. –  Olhovsky Apr 20 '11 at 15:27
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Name is very important: A guy has named a game with the most searched keywords on appstore.

Free Zombie Hero Angry War Ninja

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Damn that is indeed a nice name if you want to hit the search book :) –  Prix Aug 6 '10 at 1:15
    
Hehe, how cool is that ;) –  bummzack Aug 6 '10 at 8:01
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As I research more about this subject. I realise that you should treat the game as a brand. Here is a very good article-- Game Matters - Name matters, by Scott Miller.

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Well there are certainly copyright trolls around this topic.

If you ever try to use the word "Edge" in your game title, prepare to be sued by Tim Langdell

Bytes: Tim Langdell & the IGDA

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I direct your attention to Adam Atomic's quite hilarous atomicedgegames.com –  ninesided Aug 6 '10 at 7:57
    
"Tim Langdell Set to Lose 'Edge' Trademarks" 1up.com/news/tim-langdell-set-lose-edge and "Former Edge Trademark Owner Langdell Booted From IGDA" 1up.com/news/edge-trademark-owner-langdell-booted-igda ahahahahaha –  David Young Oct 16 '10 at 0:47
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This one is obvious but wasn't mentioned before, so here it goes:

Name should be really unique! Unfortunately I can't think of any examples right now, but there were cases when I heard a name of a game which seemed interesting and was unable to find it because it was too generic!

So first step should be to go to try out potential names on Google. Nobody wants to go through 15 unrelated pages of search in order to find website discussing the game.

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Personally when I am thinking for a name of a game, there are some common words I would avoid.

Cliché Words:

  • Shadow
  • Night
  • Legend
  • Chronicles
  • Dragon
  • Power
  • Ninja
  • Super
  • Etc.

Also when naming a game, make sure this is something not too abstract that has nothing to do with the game or storyline. Perhaps you can create a simple catchy title that is named after the main city in your game that the story revolves around. But ultimately, game design is supposed to be fun so choose a name you like and don't worry about it. Most likely, when someone proposed the title "World of Warcraft" many people thought it was terribly cliché. But with that games popularity, you begin to think of the game and its users rather then about the title.

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Forgot to add "zombie" to your list –  Steve Obbayi Aug 6 '10 at 12:54
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''Shadowy Night Chronicles of the Legendary Dragon Powered Super Ninja'' - that would probably make a good title!! :D –  jacmoe Aug 8 '10 at 16:04
    
World of WarCraft ? How can that be a weird name? Do you know the game called WarCraft? If you do, then "World of WarCraft" is a natural name for a MMO taking place in the world of WarCraft.. :) –  jacmoe Aug 8 '10 at 17:45
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@jacmoe: you forgot "Etc.", so that would be "Shadowy Night Chronicles of the Legendary Dragon Powered Super Ninja etc." –  Lohoris Sep 27 '10 at 14:57
    
Because Dragon Age 2 is selling terribly? I don't see any reason why any of the words you listed should be avoided. –  Olhovsky Apr 20 '11 at 15:40
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A friend and former colleague of mine has a pretty strict stance about naming games. Before setting off to come up with a game's name, we consult his Unword-List. It contains all the cliché words that should never be used in one of our games. Here's a sample as far as I remember it:

  • the
  • of
  • god
  • war
  • battle
  • spell
  • force
  • forge
  • and (includes &)
  • top
  • command(er)
  • conquer(or)
  • by
  • undead
  • zombie
  • king
  • demon
  • slayer
  • beyond
  • good
  • evil
  • light
  • dark
  • world
  • fantasy
  • hero
  • avatar
  • space
  • vs
  • ...

And so on. The list is intentionally restrictive on the use of binding words like of, and, the, and so on. My point being: it's much easier to settle with things you DON'T want in your game's name up front, and forces you to be really creative. Or, if you're not, you can always enter all the no-go words into a textfile and let a random name generator have at it.

Out comes: "Evil Hero Commander of the Fantasy Space World by God" or similar. :)

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So you think Beyond Good & Evil, Command & Conquer & God of War are bad names? –  Psykocyber Mar 27 '11 at 12:13
    
May I know what names you have come up with? I would have no idea what kind of names could be created without using these words. –  jSepia Apr 29 '11 at 3:34
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I spent some time searching for an article that came out several years ago on the psychology of naming your product, but it's been a while and I'm not sure where it was. Probably somewhere on Gamasutra. Some of the points above were mentioned as well as this:

Don't use a name that involves colons or a subtitle.

For example:

Ninja Apocalypse = good. (structurally. The title itself is cliche)

Ninja Apocalypse: Battle for the Five Stars = bad.

You can get away with it if it's a sequel and the main title is a draw, but in a premiere game you want the main title to be descriptive in a straightforward manner. Short and punchy. People's eyes glaze over on long titles and if the cover art doesn't make the save, you've potentially lost a sale.

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"The Secret of Monkey Island".

What? A secret? - buyer asks. - I love secrets! What? A Monkey Island? Really? Where?

...This is an example of a popular title that provokes many questions and funny associations. I think this is an example of a good title.

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They actually use this in the gameplay also. IIRC Guybrush still doesn't know the "Secret of Monkey Island" –  Noctrine Sep 28 '10 at 21:43
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