SimCity, Grand Theft Auto, Command & Conquer. Intriguing, right? In just a word or two, even if you hadn’t heard of these games before, you get some idea about the game; a simulated city, stealing cars, and something having to do with controlling armies. Now take these names; Half-Life, Madden, Halo. Who the hell knows what these games are about based only on the name, without any prior knowledge? Obviously all of the aforementioned titles are among the best selling of all time, but their names serve very different purposes. One set provides some kind of instant information about the game while the second set assumes its customer has a deeper knowledge of the title. Unfortunately for you, smallbore iPhone app developer, you are neither as recognizable as John Madden, nor do you look as bad-ass as Master Chief. So, unless Microsoft Game Studios is publishing your app, you’re going to need to stick with the “SimCity” prototype when it comes to naming your app. All you’ve got to catch your potential customer’s eye is one or two words, and an icon. Here’s how to make the most of them.
Action + Description. That’s the key. Don’t get caught up in names that are too complicated or that depend on your prospective customer’s ability to link the name to some other reference. Say you’ve got a game about blowing up planets in space. For us of the Star Wars ilk, it may be tempting to name this app “Alderon” after Princess Leia’s home-planet which was destroyed by the Death Star in “A New Hope”. Bad instinct. Assume your clientele is not as well versed in the minutiae of Star Wars and instead call your app something like “PlanetBlast” — there’s really only one thing that name could mean. As for this game’s icon, apply the universal rule of thumb: Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t go with a squadron of one millimeter long spaceships attacking four microscopic planets. One planet with a big explosion coming out the side of it will tell us all we need to know: “PlanetBlast has to do with blowing up planets.” Once you’ve made a name for yourself, you can get a little more risky, but for the moment, all you’re looking for is the jingle that sticks in someone’s head, gets them to tap-through and, hopefully, buy your app.
Good App Names/Icons:
Solitaire – We all know solitaire, and we all know the playing cards’ meaning. Perfect example of Keep It Simple Stupid.
iSniper – A nice play on the iPhone name combined with a recognizable idea, the sniper game. The crosshairs say it all for the icon.
Crazy Penguin Catapult - A catchy and memorable name. Even if you don’t exactly understand how the game consists of catapulting penguins, you don’t really care because you’d like to see that flying penguin on the icon in action.
Flick Fishing – Active words, and intriguing because it suggests movement from the user is required. The icon, a fish going for a hook, is safe and simple.
Bad App Names/Icons:
Blackbeard – Well, we assume it’s pirate related. But is it an action game? An adventure game? Turns out it’s a puzzle game, but who would know? The icon – just a pirate ship – looks fine, but doesn’t give us any further hint about the game.
Oort Storm – This is in the “Alderon” vein… We assume it’s in space because there’s a spaceship on the icon, but that’s all we know. You lost me and I’m on to the next app.
Abigale – Who? What? When? Wh- ahh, who cares. Next app.