How To Name Your Game So It Attracts A Player’s Attention: 3 Step Guide

Here’s 5 advantages you’ll get after reading this article…

  • Why do video games with bad names sell less copies
  • What does a great name look like, and why does it help you improve video game sales
  • How does a good game name grab a player’s attention
  • Why picking out a good name is the best way to brand your video game for free
  • A 3-step technique showing you how to name your video game in a way that instantly attracts a gamer’s attention

The very first thing a new player will see is the name of your game. And you only have one first impression. You only have a few moments to grab attention.

So if you’re a small game dev company, having a good name is one of the best free marketing strategies you can use to grab attention.

Now, I’m not saying that a game name is the only reason a game will fail or will succeed. There are examples of games with bad names that sell very well.

But what I am saying is, you should take any advantage you can when trying to market your game and increase sales.

So let’s learn how having a good game name will help you grab attention and improve game sales…

First… What Makes a Bad Video Game Name

Let me show you what makes a bad name, and why it will HURT your chances of grabbing attention… and hurt your chances for high game sales.

Then I’ll show you how to find a good game that that is attention-grabbing.

Ok, have a look at these two lists of game names:

List Number One:

  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Vampire Survivors
  • Counter-Strike
  • Dead By Daylight
  • Total War
  • Street Fighter

List Number Two:

  • Path To Gaea
  • Chronicles of Elmyra
  • Spherical alliance
  • Crupt
  • Astrodition
  • Hyperventila
  • Carrotting Brain
  • Renova

The first list contains some of the top selling games of all time. And the second list contains games that have been released and have low game sales (according to Games-Stats.com).

So what’s the difference between these two lists? And does a bad name really lead to low sales?

Let’s do a thought experiment…

Can you picture in your mind a vampire survivor? Can you picture in your mind a street fighter? Can you see somebody committing grand theft auto? When I say “dead by daylight” do you know what can happen when daylight hits?

Now let me ask you this…

What is a crupt? Can you picture a crupt? What about hyperventila? Can you picture it, whatever it is? Or who or what is Renova?

Let me break down the difference…

The first list of names are “actionable”, you can “imagine” them, the names are “concrete” in your mind.

More specifically, in the first list, the names tell you what you’re going to DO in the game (i.e. fight in the streets… it’s gonna be an all out total war… you’ll need to counter strike… you gotta survive vampires and monsters… you get to commit grand theft auto).

In the second list, all these names are “abstract”. I can’t “imagine” any of these. They don’t tell me ANYTHING about what I’m going to do in the game. Can I “Astrodition” anything? Is “carrotting” a word? What’s a spherical alliance?

The first list is specific, concrete. The second list is abstract.

So why does having an ABSTRACT game name hurt game sales?

Being abstract doesn’t grab attention. That’s because when a player has to mentally work to “connect the dots” and try to figure out what an abstract name means, then they’ve lost interest.

Remember, your player isn’t going to give you their full attention and spend a few minutes trying to figure out what “crupt” means.

For example, say you’ve NEVER heard of Minecraft. When you hear or see the name “Minecraft”, your brain doesn’t have to work hard and “connect the dots” on what you get to do. Right away you know you get to “mine” and “craft”.

But say you hear a game name like, Hyperventila. It’s hard for your brain to “connect the dots” and know what the game is.

My point is, the first list of names gets RIGHT to the point. The second list of names NEVER gets to the point.

Again, I’m not saying that a name is the only reason for good or bad sales. There are names like Valheim and Balder’s Gate that are very abstract. But usually these studios have paid a lot for branding and have a lot of marketing momentum behind them.

But if you don’t have the money to brand and market your game like this, then your best strategy is to have a specific but distinct name that shows the player what they get to do.

So let’s get more in-depth into why a good name grabs more attention.

And then you’ll get an action plan to help you come up with a name that grabs a gamer’s attention, and how to leverage your name to get free branding and marketing.

So, let’s keep going…

Does a Good Video Game Name Really Influence Your Sales?

Remember, the ultimate goal is to develop a video game that sells itself, and getting lots of game sales, and that people have fun playing your game. Any advantage you can get to grab a player’s attention so that they actually play your game and buy it, you need to take it.

And having the right name is one of those advantages.

Think about it this way…

A gamer doesn’t know you yet.

And the first thing a gamer will hear about you is the NAME of your game. Your game name is the first introduction to you and your video game.

You have one chance to have a good first impression.

And what is a good first impression?

Well, here’s three elements that make up a good game name so you get a good first impression…

A good video game name is:

  1. Specific, tangible, concrete
  2. Distinctive (words that have more emotional meaning)
  3. Jam-packed with benefits
  4. Hard to forget, easy to remember

Ok, this is great and all…

But how can you use this for your own game name?

How do you take all of those 4 elements, and use them to help you come up with a good game name that grabs a player’s attention — so they eventually buy and play your game?

Let’s tackle all that next…

What Are Benefits and How Do They Help Sell Video Games

A benefit is something a gamer will get to DO or experience. And don’t confuse benefits with features. Features are what the thing is… a benefit is what you get to do or experience with that thing.

For example, let’s look at the name Minecraft. That name is loaded with benefits.

The two words, “mine” and “craft” are both benefits to a gamer. They get to DO those two things. You and I can picture in our minds doing those two actions.

Also, the word “craft” has an association tied to gamers. Most players have heard of or played World of Warcraft or Starcraft. And seeing a name like Minecraft for the first time would grab their attention.

But be careful. Once game devs discover a word that is loaded with benefits, others use it too in their name. And then the opposite happens. That word that was once jam-packed with benefits gets too saturated. And words like “craft” no longer have the same benefits associated with it.

This is what I mean by being distinctive.

In 2011, using “Craft” in your name was distinctive. But today, not so much. And I see this happening with “Survivors”. In 2023, having “Survivors” in your name was distinctive, but not anymore.

Here’s what I mean… I did a search for three keywords in Steam (Craft, Tower, Survivors)…

What use to be distinctive is now oversaturated. So don’t follow trends.

Good Examples Of A “Distinctive” Game Names With Lots Of Emotional Value

Now, let’s look at the name, “Grand Theft Auto”. Again, the name is loaded with benefits. In less than a second, a gamer knows exactly what they get to do in this game.

Imagine if Rockstar named Grand Theft Auto, “City Criminal”. “City Criminal” is too abstract and not distinctive. But “Grand Theft Auto” is more specific and distinctive.

So let me show you more examples. I’m going to list a bunch of good game names. Then I’m going to use a thought experiment: I’m going to try my best and pretend I’ve never heard of these games before, and I’ll write down the first thing that comes to mind…

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out: They could have used “Boxing” but “Punch Out” is more distinctive than “Boxing”

Call of Duty: You’re called into duty to fight

Assassins Creed: A game about honor among thieves but you’re an assassin

New World: You get to explore literally a new world

Mount & Blade: Riding horses and fighting wars

Tomb Raider: Llitterly raid tombs

Guitar Hero: Get to be a rock star

Resident Evil: Get to experience a haunted house

Uncharted: Chart what is not charted

Journey: Game about the journey not the destination

Battlefield: You get to fight in a BIG battle

Euro Truck Simulator: What it’s like to truck across Europe

Farming Simulator: What it’s like to farm

Goat Simulator: What it’s like to goat

Prison Architect: Get to design and manage a prison

Railroad Tycoon: Get to design and manage a railroad company

RollerCoaster Tycoon: Get to design and manage a rollercoaster park

Garry’s Mod: Use Gary’s mods

Command and Conquer: Literally command an army and conquer other armies

The Forest: You’re lost or stranded, and I bet bad things are there to get you

7 Days to Die: In 7 days you die …unless you do something about it

HITMAN: What it would be like to be a hitman

Don’t Starve: You’ll starve if you don’t learn how to survive this world

Endless Space: I associate Endless with 4x, so it’s a 4x game in space

Counter-Strike: Probably can’t just run-and-gun, gotta be smart and tactical here

Football Manager: Literally manage a football team

Payday: F You… I’ll get paid one way or another

Planet Zoo: Build and manage an exotic zoo

My point here is, by just looking at the name alone it is EASY to describe what you get to do.

I can quickly look at those names and easily come up with what you get to do.

But abstract game names, you can’t. You have to think way harder to figure out what you get to do in the game. In fact, most abstract names you’ll never figure out what you get to do in the game. That’s why abstract names need a lot of paid branding — so players attach meaning to a brand name.

Anyway, that’s my goal for you here: to help you come up with a name so that YOUR player can easily deduce what your game is about, what they get to do, and “what’s in it for them”.

If your game name is abstract, then your player will have a hard time figuring out what they get to do, and “what’s in it for them”. And they won’t take the time to figure it out.

And yeah, I know I’m cherry-picking these names. There are a lot of names that are abstract and sell a lot of game copies (i.e. Myst, Elder Scrolls, DayZ, Diablo, Cyberpunk 2077, Witcher, Dark Souls, etc.)

But if you’re a small game studio and you can’t afford to pump millions into branding, then going with a specific, tangible, concrete, literal name will give you a marketing advantage.

What kind of marketing advantage?

Having a “literal” name is an advantage because it’s a lot easier to get a gamer’s attention. Again, that’s because the player doesn’t have to mentally work for it’s meaning. Also, a literal name tells the player right away “what’s in it for them”.

Also, having a “literal” game name is free branding. And a literal name that is distinct is hard to forget. And that’s the goal of branding: so people remember your name.

Abstract names are hard to market because they are hard to remember. You need a lot of branding to get a gamer to remember your name.

So, what do you do? How do you come up with a literal name that is distinctive and isn’t boring? How do you come up with a name that is jam-packed with a benefit and is easy to remember?

Let me show you next…

How To Name Your Game So It Instantly Grabs A Player’s Attention: 3 Step Guide

So you know a good name is specific, concrete, distinctive, and packed with benefits. A good name doesn’t make the player think too hard. And a good name is easy to remember.

And you know a bad name is too abstract. And if a name is too abstract, the player has to think too much — and they usually won’t spend time trying to figure it out. And abstract names are hard to remember.

So let me walk you through how to come up with a good name for your own game.

Step 1: Open A Google Doc, And List 10 Actions Or Verbs That You Get To Do In Your Game

As you know, a verb refers to literal actions: run, shoot, hide, talk, search, explore, hit, climb, avoid, etc.

For example, here are some of the key actions or verbs that you can do in Tomb Raider:

  1. Exploring
  2. Platforming
  3. Solving Puzzles
  4. Combat
  5. Swimming and Diving
  6. Collecting Artifacts
  7. Interacting with NPCs
  8. Inventory Management
  9. Climbing and Rappelling
  10. Stealth

So come up with 10 if you can. And then rank them in order in terms of the main action your player will do.

So in my example, I ranked them with exploring, platforming, and solving puzzles because those are the main key actions the player gets to do.

The reason you’re doing this is to find the benefits that you can “jam-pack” into your game name.

Ok, next…

Step 2: Write Down 5 to 8 Settings Where These Actions Take Place

Once you have your three actions / verbs, connect them to your setting or world.

So in my Tomb Raider example, I came up with:

  1. Ancient Tombs and Ruins
  2. Exotic Landscapes
  3. Cities and Urban Areas
  4. Islands
  5. Underwater Environments
  6. Arctic and Snowy Regions
  7. Mystical and Mythological Settings
  8. Real-World Locations

So take step 1 and combine it with step 2. For example, I would come up with:

  • Ancient Tomb Explorer
  • Tomb Explorer
  • Island Puzzler
  • Exotic Puzzle Platformer
  • Exotic Ruins Explorer
  • Tomb Jumper
  • Tomb Puzzle

It doesn’t have to be perfect right now. You’re just brainstorming. You’re building a scaffolding.

A great name isn’t going to happen in 2 minutes. Sometimes it takes weeks to come up with a good name. This is just a starting point. In step 3, we’ll tie everything together.

Ok, next…

Step 3: Get More Specific And Make The Name Distinctive

Yes, “Tomb Explorer” or “Tomb Jumper” is literal, concrete, and specific. But it is NOT distinctive enough. It sounds boring. Flat. It doesn’t sound exciting like “Tomb Raider” does.

So to make it more distinct and more exciting and more emotional, let’s drill down, and get more specific.

So, look at your list of 10 verbs. And see if you can get even MORE specific. Remember, you want to uncover something more emotional than just a boring action.

For example, my first verb / player action is “explore”. But “explore” is too abstract. And “explore” isn’t emotional. It’s flat.

But “raider” is way more emotional than “explorer”. That’s because “raider” is more specific than “explorer”. It’s hard to imagine “explorer”. You can explore mountains, seas, sky, and even explore thought. “Explore” is not concrete enough.

But it’s a LOT easier to imagine “raider”. Yes, they explore. But they also are explorers who enter places illegally or in areas that are forbidden. They also attack and fight. A general explorer doesn’t do all that. But a raider does.

So, by combining player actions with your setting, you can come up with more SPECIFIC names that are distinct, emotions, and more exciting to a player.

So for example, say I was making a Explorer, Platformer, Puzzle game in exotic locations, I would name my game:

  • “Lost Relics”
  • “Lost Relic Hunter”
  • “Relic Hunter”
  • “Relic Seeker”
  • “Relic Thief”
  • “Forgotten Relics”
  • “Forgotten Forest”
  • “Traps and Temples”
  • “Old Gods”

Still Stuck Trying To Find A Good Game Name?

It’s not easy to come up with a good name that grabs attention.

And if you went through the 3 step action plan, and you’re still finding that you’re coming up with abstract or boring names that aren’t attention-grabbing, then here’s what do…

Click this link: Free Marketing Help, and I’ll help you with more advanced, in-depth free help.

Ok, let’s keep going…

What To Do RIGHT NOW… Action Plan

The best way to learn something is to take ACTION right when you learn it. You only understand something when you experience it — and not just read about it.

So, do this right now:

Open a Google doc. And write down THREE actions / verbs your player gets to do in your game.

Just start with 3. I know I said 10 before, but to get you warmed up and see how this works, do 3 right now.

So… what’s the three main actions or verbs your player gets to do?

Knowing this will help you come up with a name is loaded with benefits.

Then write down your main setting. And see how you can combine your actions / verbs with your setting.

For example, think:

Tomb Raider: Action = Raid, Setting = Tomb

Football Manager: = Manage, Setting = Football game

Grand Theft Auto: Action = Auto theft, Setting = Big city

All these names signify what you get to DO in the game, and get to do it in a unique setting.

These names are not sexy. They are not clever. They are not flashy. But they are also hard to forget. They are easy to remember.

Remember, the closer you get to being literal and specific… and then tie it to your setting, the closer you get to coming up with a name that is hard to forget.

Having an abstract name means you’ll need to spend a lot of money on branding to help gamers remember you.

A literal name does all the branding for you, for free. A literal name shows the gamer what they get to do… and that gets a gamer’s attention, and it hard to forget.

Your Next Step…

Coming up with a unique, specific name jam-packed with benefits isn’t easy. And it’s not easy to come up with a “distinctive” name that is attention-grabbing.

So if you still need more help, then I invite you to take advantage of…

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Thanks! And looking forward to helping you find players!

Later,

Dariusz Konrad
Port Stanley, Ontario
Canada