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Wordy noun: The name of the game

If you clone a game, why not clone the name? Mobile platforms are swamped with similarly-titled, similarly-themed games. What does it say about the audience, and is it so different on PC?

Alastair McQueen, Blogger

March 6, 2015

2 Min Read

Lets start with the obvious: Flappy Bird. Then there's Crossy Road. Before that we had Candy Crush and, the originator, Angry Bird. Notice a pattern? Of course you do. It seems every mobile smash has to have a title that is precisely three syllables long, and preferably with the form word + ' y ' + noun.

Call me Moany Dev, but is this really necessary? Is the mobile audience (and developer community) so herd-like in nature that it can only pay attention to names that are phonetically familiar?

Maybe so. There's something reassuring there, no doubt. The time and attention a typical mobile user takes to browse the app store, remember or notice a title, and actually bother to install what is mostly perceived as 'free' software, is limited to say the least. 'Verby noun' positively oozes kid-friendly, brain-turn-offy, no-complications fun. It's as if we have become collectively conditioned.

With mobile gaming, of course, it doesn't just stop at familiar names. The massive rush to clone popular titles on Android and iPhone is clear enough to see - not that I'm accusing any of the above titles of being clones. I'm talking 'Tappy Goat' or whatever other variations are out there. If you clone a game, why not clone the name?

You don't seem to see this on the PC or console market – at least not to the same extent. Deeper games perhaps demand or allow more imaginative names, and, in general, the titles are slightly less derivative. Although there is the recentish rash of 'Ominous thing: the sub-name goes here' type titles to contend with.

The PC market isn't immune to cloning obviously. Witness the many FPS, Second World War games at the turn of the century, to name but one example. Medal of Honour arguably spawned the similar-of-name Call of Duty. Perhaps not strictly a clone, but both titles indicated a particular brand of game experience the market understood.

At any rate, 'cloning', or closely imitating a game, is rarer on PCs in general. It takes more time and more effort, and the complexities of the gameplay and design will usually mean the output varies more. And there are fewer attempts: you could argue it takes a AAA studio to successfully 'clone' a AAA game (hey, in some cases they actually start to clone their own games, but that's another story).

Ultimately it's about market recognition. And with a succesful mobile title especially, the form of name seems to become a brand itself, shared between developers and audience. With the barrier for developing – and cloning – simple, fun, short-term titles ever lower, you can expect the 'Verby Names' and their next iteration to keep on coming.

Disclaimer: I'm a newbie developer who has a predictably named brain-turn-offy game with a three syllable word and a sub-title to be sure. Follow @AlastairMcQueen for the latest on Overcrowd: A Commute 'Em 'Up.

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