How to name your indie game

Naming your indie game is one of the tougher choices you have to make when developing your game and there’s a lot of things you need to consider before announcing the name of your game to the public. In this blog post I’ll delve into our process of naming games here at Zoink Games.

Working Title

When you press that “Start new project” button in your game engine for the first time or save that first piece of code for your game you’re going to need a file name. It’s easy to just type in new_project.cs and feel done with it but it’s good to be organized from the start so you’ll need a good working title.
I’ve always argued you should pick something you’re 100% certain won’t be the final name of the game. Because if you pick a decent working title you’re going to get stuck with it and start to like it and changing it later might be more of a hassle if you’re already emotionally attached to the name. A good working title is short, easy to remember and explains what kind of game it is. If you’re making a shooter call the game something like Explosion or if you’re making a platformer call it FatPlumber. Save that good name for when you actually announce and release your game!

Flipping… Death? Fe?

We’re currently working on two games here at Zoink Games and one of them is an adventure/platforming game called Flipping Death. For those not familiar with the game you play as Death and the main mechanic is flipping between two sides of a world. It’s a pretty solid name for a game!
The other game we’re working on is simply called Fe. That’s right, Fe! It’s short, artsy and… what does it mean? We’ll get back to that later.

Setting up a criteria list

So, before deciding what you’re going to call your name you should run it through this checklist to do a proper evaluation of the name. For the sake of argument let’s pretend we’re going to call our game Ghost Giant

  • Easy to remember and spell – Your game name should stand out and be easy to spell and to remember. Keep in mind that even if you’re fluent in English not everyone is, so don’t pick a name that no one knows what is it or can’t spell. Your game name should be marketable. Ghost Giant is easy enough and should be easy for people to remember.
  • Other games or products – Is there already a game with the title you’re considering? If so, you should most likely change it to something else. Also check there aren’t any other products named something similar to what you’re thinking. Searching for Ghost Giant I can’t find any games or products so that’s good.
  • Website – Is the domain available for you to buy? And yes, www.ghostgiant.com is available to buy. Depending on what country you’re based in you should probably buy the top domain for your country as well. It’s not that expensive and it’s easy. Normally I don’t bother with all the other top domains that exist though.
  • Google – Google your future game name and see what shows up. This is a real important step since your goal should be to control the top hits of Google making it easy for people to find your game (and buy it). If you name your game “Banana” you’re never going to be the best search result. So don’t do that. Searching on Google for Ghost Giant gives a lot of results (since it shows both for ghost and giant) but the actual title “Ghost Giant” doesn’t really result in anything. So in this case it’s a good title.
  • Social Media Accounts – Depending on what game you’re making you might be targeting different social media platforms but for this example we’re going to just check Facebook and Twitter and /GhostGiant is actually taken on both. In most cases I recommend promoting your game from your company profile anyway so this doesn’t matter too much. Also check the hashtags for your game, in our case #GhostGiant doesn’t result in anything so that’s good.

I won’t include this in the list but another thing I’d like to do is mention the game name you’re thinking of to your parents and see what their reaction is. If they can pronounce it (and even remember it!) you’re onto something good! Zoink Games is based in Sweden so most of the times when we actually mention the game it’s going to be to other Swedes so make sure it works in your language as well.

The Game Name Checklist

Here’s a little checklist I made where I score each of the above factors ranging from 0 (Bad) to 5 (Great). Your game probably won’t score 5 in all categories so in the end it comes down to just picking a name and going with it.

Ghost Giant Fe Flipping Death
Easy to remember and spell? 4 4 4
Are there other games with the same name? 5 2 5
Website available? 5 5 5
Is it “Google proof?” 4 0 3
Social Media Accounts available 2 0 5
TOTAL 20 15 22

As you can see both Flipping Death and Ghost Giant score pretty high but Fe doesn’t and that’s mostly because the word Fe means so many things in different languages, most common for us is “Santa Fe” and “Fire Emblem”. But for us Fe is actually Swedish for fairy which ties into the lore and that is a story in itself. When we explain this to people and press they really like the story behind and the name sticks better. So although we did have lots of discussions before announcing Fe we ended up using it because it felt right and really fit the narrative of the game. The working title was actually Forest, which would have been a far worse name I think.

To sum up

So, to sum all this up. Here are my thoughts. Use a silly working title for your game and before you decide on an actual official name for your game go through the checklist above and make sure it gets a decent enough score on the list. Also ask some of your friends what they think about when they hear the name. Make sure websites and social media accounts aren’t already taken and register them before anyone else does. Google your game and assess whether or not you think the top search result is going to only be about your game. You’d preferably want all the hits to be about your game. Lastly, make sure your game name isn’t offensive in any language.
In the end it’s going to be really hard picking a name for your game but once you’ve decided just go with it and don’t look back. Ideally your game will be such a huge success that everyone will know the name!

I skipped one topic for this blog post that that’s about intellectual property and copyright laws. That’s because it’s something I’m not that familiar with. (we’ve just now started investigating getting trademark licenses for our games) and also it’s something I’d say 99% of people making indie games doesn’t have worry too much about. It’s an interesting topic though and it might be worth exploring in the future in another blog post.

Let me know your thoughts. Do you agree? Disagree? Drop a comment or send me a DM on Twitter. Good luck naming your game!

Mikael Forslind
PR & Marketing Manager
@MikaelForslind