Choosing the right name for your game is one of the most important things you'll do during your game's development. Your name is what will identify your game; it's how players will refer their friends to it, what will show up in article titles about it, and (most importantly) it will form part of your game's identity.
Before you begin, there are a few important factors to take in account when choosing a name for your game. Some important factors are the distinctiveness of your name, the 'meaning' of the name, how catchy it is, how it translates, and the potential for sequels with similar names.
How We Decided on the Name 'Grey'
Picking the name Grey for our game was a simple choice at the time. We believed we wanted a name that represented the world around the player - a name that fit the style, the theme, and most importantly the story. Grey fit all of these.
What we didn't expect was all the repercussions of choosing such a simple name.
After having released Grey we have noticed some troubles regarding the name. Sometimes it was as simple as the name being spelled as "Gray" rather than "Grey", which resulted in some confusion. Sometimes it simply wouldn't show up in Google's search results; we also discovered that it was nearly impossible to find a video of our game on YouTube without adding additional terms. These small problems made a big impact on people being able to find our game.
We based our choice of name purely on it being fitting to the game itself. We didn't fully consider how the name would affect people searching for it or finding articles about it, or ourselves making a website for it. Now that we have released Grey and seen first-hand the results of choosing that name, we want to help you name your game based on our own experiences.
Making Sure Your Name Is Unique...
Before you fully decide on a name for your game it is important you know what already exists with a similar or even (in a worst case scenario) identical name. Googling, Binging, checking Facebook, checking Twitter and checking many of the other social media sites is a quick way to find out whether your desired name is already "taken".
If you do determine your game name is too common or already taken, it's important that you weigh your options. If you stick with your current name you may have trouble getting on to the top of the Google results and this can hurt. How will people download your game, or find information about it? What extra terms will people have to include just to see your game? Will your game show up in potential other searches when they are searching for different games of a similar kind? A poorly chosen name can greatly affect how your game ends up doing in both the short and the long term.
The Google results for when searching "Grey" (left) and "Grey Mod" (right). Highlighted is our own game.
Grey the first few items that come up is a Wikipedia page of the color, a company, "Grey vs. Gray" spellings, and even the movie The Grey. Googling
Grey Mod, on the other hand, shows our mod several times in the top results. Had we chosen a more unique name or added a subtitle to our game name, Googling it would produce it as one of the first results without the potential player needing to add additional terms to their search.
...But Not Too Unique
Choosing a unique name can be overdone, though. Including symbols in your name such as a " + " can make it difficult to search for, since a plus sign usually has a specific meaning (like "include this term"). Making your name too hard to pronounce or spell can also lead to less than ideal results for users interested in your game. If a player can't spell or sound out how your game's name is spelled this will make it difficult to refer to or search for.
When deciding what your game's name is going to be, don't make it too difficult to remember, write, read, pronounce, or search for.
Adding a subtitle to your game name can help to make it more distinct and better describe what your game is about.
Let's look at "World of Warcraft: Cataclysm" as an example; although this is an expansion it is still a good reference for showing how subtitles can help describe your game. By the name alone, "Cataclysm", you can assume that a devastating event has occurred or is going to occur in the storyline. This helps players to guess what your game is about before even seeing it or playing it. Some players may even be interested by the name alone.
A game's subtitle can have a strong meaning to it, tempting players to look into it.
When choosing a name for your game, if you are having trouble coming up with a unique name or something that will help your get onto the top of searches, a subtitle may be what you need. Game name subtitles allow you to easily use a generic name for your game such as "Magic:" by adding a subtitle such as "The Gathering", making a unique name that players can easily find.
Translating and Localizing Your Name
Before you 100% decide you've chosen the name you think fits your game best there is still an important step of making sure it translates well or has good localization.
One of the issues we faced with Grey (although only a minor problem) was the different spellings between "Grey" and "Gray" in different localizations. While it was not a major issue, it could still cause entirely different Google results when spelled differently. If it is possible to avoid localization issues with the words in your game's name it is definitely a good idea to do so.
Similarly with localization issues if you have chosen a 'made-up' name (for instance, the name of a fictional faction, town, or creature in your game) then it is important to use translators or check with others to make sure the name doesn't have an unintended meaning! A good example of this are the players in many multiplayer games. It is not uncommon to see usernames that sound 'cool' but when put into a translator end up actually meaning something rather rude in another language.
Claiming Your Chosen Name
Claiming your game's name once it has been chosen can be an easy process if done right. (If not done right it can result in headaches later if a malicious user decides to tries to take over your name.) When you have decided on your name it is a good idea to start claiming a domain name, Facebook page, Twitter account, and so on.
A comparison of Grey's social media pages with Mod DB having the most hits (over 600,000), our website having the second most, and Facebook sitting in third place.
When choosing your domain name, Facebook page name, or any other registered name, it is important that you pick the 'obvious' choice that people interested in your game would Google or type in. For an example, if possible, getting a .com domain significantly helps when an interested user just guesses at what your website might be. Having a social media page with your unique game name will help users easily find out what you are saying to your community, or to find your website if you are not quite yet higher up in the search results.
If your game is a mod or an indie game then another good option is to make a profile for your game on http://moddb.com or http://indiedb.com: these are great sites for helping get your game in front of players. Both sites allow you to make simple news postings which will show up on their front page for all to see, as well as letting you make a nice profile page for your game which will really help kick start your player base.
If you want to have hundreds of thousands of players get a chance at seeing your game's news on the front of a popular website IndieDB and ModDB are the way to go.
Do note though that if you are not quite ready to show work and don't want to reveal anything publicly yet, it's okay to wait a while before claiming your name. More likely than not, if you have a unique enough game name, nothing will come along and kick you out of your place when you do go to claim these sites. Worst cast scenario: you can follow the subtitle method above for separating yourself from the other results if something does come up and you have already made assets for the name you have chosen.
Actually Coming Up With the Name
I've talked about why you need to make sure you are choosing the right name for your game and the important factors to think of when choosing the right name, but what about actually coming up with a name?
When it comes down to actually choosing your name there are a few tips that can help:
- Consider what your game is about. Is a storyline with a unique theme? Can that be integrated with the name of your game or its subtitle? For example, Heavy Rain features rain throughout as an important ongoing theme.
- Is your storyline or game not fully fleshed out yet? Try using a random name generator that uses words of your choosing, such as Word Mixer This generator can come up with some distinctive names and if you are not too worried about the name being a 'real' word then this is a simple way to ensure your game will be at the top of various search results for its name.
- Can you use a generic name for your game based on its main theme, but use a unique subtitle to support it? For example, while Magic alone could refer to many different games such as Might and Magic, Magic: The Gathering's subtitle distinguishes it well from others.
These are all good ways to help you come up with a name for your game. If you are still having trouble and have yet to flesh out your game entirely, it likely won't hurt if you wait a while before choosing a final name.
Choosing the right name for your game is a very important task. You don't want to choose something too difficult to remember or spell, but at the same time you don't want to choose something too common that will not easily be found. You have to find the right balance in choosing your name in order to help benefit your game in both the short and the long term.