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Mobile Games & Apps Naming

How to come up with an idea of your game's future name? When it's time to think about naming and ASO? What's the "three words magic" everyone is talking about?

Naming in flagship games

  1. Pac-Man

The original name of the game was Pakkuman (the Japanese word “paku-paku” is used to describe the sound people make when they champ), however, somewhere on the long way to the market, the game changed its name to Puck-Man. The main hero is nothing else but a round pizza that is missing one slice. But when it first entered the American market, the developers did not want to risk having the game sound similar to Fuck-Man and, upon consulting with American marketing specialists, they decided to re-name it to “Pac-Man”.

  1. Tetris

The creator of Tetris obviously did not go out of his way trying to come up with a unique name. Instead, he combined two words - Tetromino and tennis – into one. Tetromino is a geometrical shape that consists of 4 squares, while tennis is simply the most favorite sport of Alexey Pajitnov – the game developer.

  1. The legend of Zelda

Shigeru Miyamoto called the female character of his game Zelda simply because he liked the name of Scott Fitzgerald’s wife very much. Link was initially called Chris in honor of Shigeru’s godfather. But the creator finally decided to give his protagonist the name that would symbolize the link between the game world and the player.

  1. Halo

Halo is known to have suffered from re-naming more than any other game. At first, it was called Solipsis in honor of the planet where the main events take place. However, at different stages of its development, the game was called Star Maker, Star Shield, Hard Vacuum, The Crystal Palace and, for some unknown reason, The Santa Machine and Monkey Nuts. The latter was declined almost immediately because one of the co-founders of Bungie Studios could not tell his mom he was working on the game called like that. Eventually, the spherical Solipsis became Halo, inspired by the popular science fiction culture of Iain M. Banks novels.

Useful tips

  1. Keep it reasonably short

Use 1 to 3 words in the name of the game. Apparently, the names that consist of three words have some 'irresistible attraction' that I’m going to talk about later. Avoid using abbreviations, and if you are willing to use just one word in the name, make sure it is concise enough or even invent a new word.


  1. Avoid using junk words

Using words like Fun, Game etc. in the name of the game is a cliché, a banality and a total waste of valuable symbols. The only reason why you might want to use the word ‘Game’ in the name is to single out your product from other products in the same category. For example, if your product is an application with recipes, call it The Ultimate Cooking Game instead of The Ultimate Cooking Guide. Distinguish yourself from your competitors. Hardest Game Ever is probably the only game that has ever been able to succeed with such a name.


  1. Beware of twin-words

Don’t use more than one twin-word (the words that your competitors use) in the name of the game. If you see that there already are plenty of “Fruit Slicers”, try to find a better alternative to one of these words. When checking out possible names, don’t just focus your attention on the category that your product falls under.


  1. Find a catchy word

Attract the attention of your users with the word that they don't often come across in their day-to-day life. You don’t often get to see or use words like “swirl”, “whirl”, “prelude”, “pandemic”, which can make them a perfect external trigger and help promote downloads. On the other hand, the word “butt” is widely popular these days, still people have not got used to seeing it in the names of products. Such words are sure to catch everyone’s attention. Mind that catchy words like that have to be used with great caution.


  1. Readability

When working on the name of your product, try to imagine that you are aiming it at the user whose reading skills are at a third-grade level. No one will be able to read something like “Agathokakological”, and instead of clicking on Install, the user will simply shrug their shoulders in surprise and annoyance and go looking for a game whose name they can actually read.


  1. Invent a new word

Think of Pajitnov and invent a completely new word by combining 2 existing ones. With a unique name, you will easily beat the competition, moreover, such a name will stick in the minds of your users. Be careful when inventing a new non-existent word to avoid making the mistake we mentioned above. Thus, “Indestructotank” (Indestructible and Tank) would be a bad choice for it is a poorly readable word with recurrent syllables. A good example, on the other hand, is Exorbis - Ex Orbis, where Orbis means the aura of a planet (ancient astrology).


The magic of three words

Clash of Clans, Age of War, Age of Sparta, Call of Duty, World of Tanks, King of Thieves, Mirrors of Albion, Heroes of Atlan.

All these games occupy TOP positions in Google Play with many of them being rated as “Editors’ Choice”. The names of these games consist of 3 words and one of them is the conjunction “of” which is not translated into Russian but used to express the genitive case (whose?)

Names that only have 3 words in them are also good in the context of optimization.

Through the prism of ASO

The name of an application is an essential aspect of its ranging and along with the icon, it is the main method of attracting the attention of users. About half of App Store and Google Play users use the Search facilities when looking for a new app.

What are they looking for? Most frequently, search queries contain either general phrases that match the name of the categories (e.g., “puzzles”) or key words that reflect users’ individual interests (up to 80% of all search queries). And the demand, as we all know, breeds supply.

Back in spring 2013, the share of apps whose names contained key words was only about 16%, while 2,5 months later it was 51% (according to Tune).

Everyone knows that words used in the title are usually granted higher priority during the search process. The experiment carried out by MobileDevHQ proved that by placing a key word in the title, you can improve your app’s search position in Google Play by 10,3%.

Speaking of App Store, we can use our Tanktastic search optimization case as an example. We were able to promote the app for the “tank” search query from the 70th position to the 30th position over just one update due to the change of its title (by the way, it now occupies the 12th position in the United States).

You should only place the most appropriate queries in the title, meaning the queries that are relevant and applicable to your game. As trite and obvious as it may sound, users only download the applications that meet their immediate needs. If the app fails to live up their expectations, it will be removed from the device, which can affect severely the app’s rating and positions.

As in the case with our client easy ten, adding the phrase “foreign languages” to its title allowed the application to start from the 8thposition for this search query (it now takes the 3rd position).

Make it easier for users to find your game. Approve the main title of the application (e.g., easy ten) and then simply add key words in the language of the country where you plan to publish it. For example, easy ten - learn any language for the USA and easy ten -иностранные языки for Google Play in Russia (TOP-3 for the “foreign language” search query). Thus, you will form a brand that will be intentionally searched for in the future.

position for a highly-competitive search query

As we know, the optimal number of symbols in the title for Google Play is 25, although you are allowed to use up to 30 symbols (mind that if you do that, the full name of the application will not be shown in application search results). Keep in mind that titles with 30 symbols might not show up correctly on devices with 5" screens. 25 is the optimal number. For App Store, the optimal number of symbols is 35, at that, the titles that contain long words can be shortened. The maximum permitted number of symbols is 255, however, the user will only see the first 70 symbols on the application page (for iPhone).

In other words, you will have 2-5 key words for your title. Try to include the words that will give your potential users the best possible insight into what the game is about when they first come across it in the store. For example, The Pooches -  TOP-2 for the “games for children” search query; TOP-13 in Russia in the “Family” category on Google PlayHaving only 2 wordsthe title managed to fit in 2 high-frequency search queries and, at the same time, provide its users with some important information on the specific nature of the application, which consists of a few mini-games featuring some popular cartoon characters.

Here is another example - Sword vs Sword. When you read the name of the game, you can easily guess what it is about. At the same time, we didn’t feel the need to include any other key words, since the “sword” query itself is popular enough. Many publishers prefer to use key words in the naming of their games. This brings us to the conclusion that ASO has to be taken into consideration at the very early stages, when creating the name of your game.

Do remember what they say: what you call a boat, so it will float!


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