Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

5 Keys To Naming Your Game

He's got a game company name.
Sometimes coming up with a name for a game is easy, but sometimes it's a long painful process. Often you'll have a name you used when you were developing the game, and that becomes the name almost by default. However you come by it, the name is an important part of your marketing effort, and there are some key factors to consider before finalizing the name of a game.

The name is a marketing tool. Don't choose a name just because you like it; make it work for you. The name may be the only point of contact a potential buyer has for your game, so the name may have to be memorable and sell the game all by its lonesome. That's a heavy burden for a name, and most won't be able to handle it by themselves. Choose a name that can work hard and it will make your marketing efforts easier.

Choose a memorable name. Since your name may be the only thing a buyer sees or hears, if they can remember it they can use Google to find it (hopefully). Only if they remember it, though. A bland, generic name is easily forgotten.  A game called "Word Hunt" may be descriptive, but it's not very memorable. "Scrabble" or "Hexalex" is a lot more memorable. (Hexalex is one of my favorite iPhone games.) A name that's both memorable and trademarkable is best.

Choose a trademarkable name. Unless you enjoy getting a cease-and-desist letter, you need to make sure your game name doesn't infringe on someone's existing trademark. And unless you like the idea of someone else using your game name as their game's name, you'd be well advised to get your own trademark. (If you're unfamiliar with trademark law, Nolo Press's web site is a good place to start; I highly recommend this book: Trademark: Legal Care for Your Business & Product Name). If you ever wondered why some product names have funky spelling, the reason is trademark law. An unusual spelling can transform a common word into a trademarkable term, and it also helps make it more memorable. If you want to see if your name is already in use, check out the US Patent Office web site. You can search for the name you have in mind. Remember, though, if your name is trademarked in a category other than games, you may still be able to use it. Nothing's completely cut and dried, though. If you have a lot of money at stake, consulting a trademark attorney is a very good idea.

Choose a descriptive name. Or at least one that has some relation to what your game is about, or what it's like, or the emotion you want to generate. A random sequence of consonants may be trademarkable, but it's probably not too memorable and certainly not descriptive. (Rules can be broken, though... XKCD is a great web comic, with the name specifically chosen to be unpronounceable, and the quality of the comic has made it memorable.)

Think about the future. Will you be creating more games in a series? Is there an overall title and a subtitle that you want to use? How about your company name? (All of this discussion should apply to your company name as well as any game name.) Check out this post on Kotaku about naming game companies... it will sound familiar to those who have looked for names.

Really, choosing a name for a game is easy. Just stare at a screen until drops of blood form on your forehead, and press the keys they fall upon.

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