8 Reasons Mobile Games Are Named Noun + Verb (or, How Candy Crush Crushed Bejeweled)


Here at Catchword, it part of our DNA (not to mention part of our JOB) to decipher naming trends. And as app naming and game naming is something we are often are asked to do, I thought I’d shed some light on a fully-fledged trend: mobile game apps that take the form noun + verb (or occasionally noun + noun, adjective + noun, etc). You know, Candy Crush. Trivia Crack. Moto Chaser. Fruit Ninja. Temple Run. Subway Surfers. Minion Rush. Angry Birds. Farm Heroes. Zombie Tsunami. Pork Chopper. (Okay, I made the last one up. I’m thinking to play you ride a pig like a motorcycle…Hells Angels meets Wilbur.) Anyways, compare those with: Twitter, Skype, Tinder, Zoosk, Spotify, Pandora, Uber, Instagram, or compounds like YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, or WhatsApp. See?

So without further ado, here are eight reasons mobile games are named like they are, ranked from obvious to not-so-obvious, followed by a personal rumination on why Bejeweled got tapped out by Candy Crush.

1) Games tend to employ more fun, playful words because that’s part of their allure. Hence Ninjas, Surfers, Birds, Heroes, Tsunamis, etc., while non-game apps exude more professionalism.

2) Combining the noun AND verb implies action. And that’s what games are all about. As a bonus, the titles give you just a teaser about how to play, which is further helpful for drawing people in.

3) Using two distinct words allows for unusual combinations that further spark curiosity and enhance memorability. I have never played Subway Surfers, but those words which have likely never been collocated before are certainly intriguing. Same with Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, or Zombie Tsunami.

4) Games really, really want to appeal to kids. Sure they are played by many people, but 63% of KIDS THESE DAYS play games on mobile devices. So they often use themes and words—real english words—that are easier for kids to understand or more appealing to kids. Angry Birds is very simple, appealing name, same with Farm Heroes and Temple Run and Candy Crush…etc.

5)  Two simple words imply a sort of light, short diversion. Players of console games or PC games like Skyrim or Halo or Call of Duty or EverQuest or World of Warcraft want to be immersed—that’s why they all sound lengthy and involved. Mobile Gamers don’t want the name to suggest they are going to spend hours playing—even if they end up doing so.

6) The staying power of these games is relatively weak—they come and go in a year or two at best. Operating on that timescale, studios can’t afford to have names that don’t obviously describe the game and draw people in immediately, because the longer it takes people to become familiar with the game the less profitable games are, and the faster they could be supplanted. Trendy names become stale quickly, but when the turn-around is so fast for mobile games, playing on known themes and patterns is okay… for now!

7) There is a bit more trademark freedom with two word names. Mobile gaming is super crowded—and it’s just math that the number of available trademarks gets bigger the more words you have to work with. How many games are there with Heroes in the title? Probably hundreds. But as long as the second word sets them apart, they can use it. (That’s also why there was so much backlash when King wanted to trademark simply “Candy.”)

8) The trend perpetuates itself. Consumers come to associate games with noun + verb, so developers know an easy way to get consumers on board quickly is to play to their existing associations.

If you want an indication of how much the name really, really matters, lets look at the “King” of mobile games—Candy Crush. What always struck me about Candy Crush is that there have always been games with pretty much the same premise around—Bejeweled being perhaps the most well known—but Candy crush blew them all out of the water in terms of downloads and revenue. Sure, there are a lot of factors: Candy Crush’s pricing method was more sophisticated, their game more scientifically fine-tuned to be addictive, but Bejeweled had a huge head start in terms of name recognition. That being said, I’m convinced Candy Crush’s success vs Bejeweled was in part due to the name. How many of the 8 bullet-points does Bejeweled cover? Not as many as Candy Crush, that’s for sure. Bejeweled brings to mind high fantasy, Candy brings to mind quick little bursts of fun. Candy Crush gets at the action involved, has a little alliteration, and combines two simple words. Bejeweled is tougher to say, doesn’t tease the action involved, and isn’t a very kid-friendly term. That’s the power of a name!


Do your favorite pet names date from 10, 100, or 1000 years ago?
Who could resist the opportunity to weigh in on a new pasta shape name?