Okay you hard-working indie game developer, you created a masterpiece, but nobody wants to play it. What gives?
As I’ve alluded to previously, there is a lot that goes into getting your game in front of people. You may have created the Mona Lisa of games, but without a strong and well-though-out marketing campaign, it will fade into obscurity. Sad but true.
Persistence is key. Keep tweeting and posting and keep a blog. Keep it current. Keep showing the community what you’ve created and let them know what you have planned. If it looks good, it doesn’t matter how much people see it. And if it needs improvement, putting it out there will help guide you through improvements. Community is at the heart of independent gaming.
The name of the game is . . .
There are thousands or perhaps millions of games out there. And each of them has a name. Even if you spend years on a game, even if it’s the amazing, groundbreaking gaming experience of a lifetime, the odds of people noticing it and actually checking it out are vastly greater if the game has a clever title.
I’m a professional copywriter. I name things and create headlines for a living. I give my articles provocative titles not because I’m obnoxious, but because numbers don’t lie. If I write a marketing article and name it “How not to market your game,” a dozen people click. Conversely, if I title the same article “Why indie game developers suck at marketing,” I get hundreds of clicks in a day. Does that make me a cheater? Does it change the value of my content? Nope.
Similarly, you need to give serious consideration to the title of your game. It will absolutely make the difference between getting noticed and getting ignored.
Some naming rules from the world of copy writing
The 80/20 Rule says that, while 80 percent of viewers will read your title, only 20 percent of them will actually read your content. The same is true of your indie game. Eighty percent of potential players will see the title of your game, but only 20 percent will engage your title to see what it’s about. Think of your game’s title as the first and most important point of marketing.
Another copy writing rule is the 50/50 Rule. This one says you should spend 50 percent of your time writing an article and 50 percent thinking of a headline. Obviously this would be overkill for game devs, but the point is the same. You need to put real thought into what you are doing. Don’t just name your game the first thing that pops into your head. Try some different stuff. Make a poll on Twitter and see what people like best. (If your game doesn’t have enough followers to facilitate a poll, then you should work on that too.)
Search-engine optimization (SEO) is another very important consideration when naming your title. If someone wants to Google your game and it has a common-ass name, they will never find it! Especially if your game is titled similarly to a high-dollar release (that has paid a high-dollar marketing team). Think of something unique that will set your game apart from the rest.
Finally … Some tips
I don’t know you or your game. I don’t know what you or it is about. I don’t know what kind of image you want to portray. Headlines and titles are very situational concepts. There’s a reason companies pay me the big bucks to think of these things. Some naming rules are counter-intuitive.
People crave intrigue. If you name your game (or article; see “Why your indie game is doomed to fail) something mean or something that calls them out, you will be guaranteed a reaction.
While your game may not be able to call out people like that, something shocking and upsetting is probably not a bad call. Depending on the genre of your game, of course: There’s Poop in my Soup, Shower with your dad simulator.
Avoid clichés. If I were you, I would not include the words “Clash”, “Angry”, “Flappy” or “War”. Actually, I could make a reeeeeaaally long list of words the gaming community is tired of seeing. When gamers see titles like this, they instantly assume your game is a clone. Don’t do it.
Don’t shy away from poetic tricks like rhyming and alliteration. They may seem cheesy, but if your game can stick in their minds, you will vault ahead of the competition. If you don’t know (not judging), alliteration is when multiple words in a phrase have repetitive letters. Leisure Suit Larry. Battleborn. World of Warcraft.
Avoid common words or word combinations. If your game’s name is a common phrase, it may be buried in Google search results not under other games, but under common search words. You don’t want to be in competition with movies or other media when potential players are Googling your title.
The public is super lazy. Something like 80 percent of people performing web searches don’t search beyond Google’s first results page. If your game title is common or hard to remember, it is very unlikely that potential players will get their detective on to locate your game. Help them out by creating an original, easy-to-remember title.
When translating your title, get the opinion of a native speaker. Actually, this should be true of your entire game. If your game is poorly translated, it looks awful. But most especially the title. Hey, if you want, I’ll have a look at it for you. Just so I don’t have to suffer through more poorly translated games. Ugh!
If these tips seem vague, it’s only because I can’t tell you what to name your game. Name it what works best. You don’t want to rely on my opinion any way, you want to rely on the community. Ask your followers what they like best. Give them options.
Here’s a fun idea: hire a professional. If you’re serious about getting a return on your investment, a professional writer/editor is a relatively small investment. Have your dialogue proofread and make sure your pants are zipped before you show up to dinner.
And above all — for the love of God — don’t name your game the first thing that pops in your head.
Remember, your title is the single most important marketing decision you can make for your creation.