What’s In a Name?

20 06 2008

Recently I read this article on Joystiq (who sourced Game Daily), the article was titled “Boom Blox a bust at retail, sells only 60k units” and talked about how even though Boom Blox was critically acclaimed, it has sold very poorly. My reaction to this is: Of course no one bloody bought it! It’s called ‘Boom Blox’ for christ sake!

Look, at some point during the process of a game finding it’s way from a publisher, via the local game store and onto a shelf in someone’s living room, there is going to be someone who knows absolutely nothing about the game other than it’s name who has to make a decision about it. All this theoretical chump has to go on is a single name “Boom Blox”. Maybe this person is the guy who does the ordering for your store, or maybe it’s a confused parent trying to find a game for their hyperactive kiddies, or maybe it’s just another average uninformed member of the proletariat. Whoever it is, it’s the majority of people, but certainly not anyone who has found their way to reading these words. What’s like to happen upon seeing the words “Boom Blox” is that their eyes will continue on to find other better words to read.

So what’s wrong with the name? It makes it sound like a shit-ass piece of goddam shovelware, that’s what’s wrong with it! I’m not denying that ‘Boom Blox’ does reasonably accurately describe the contents of the game, but that doesn’t stop it from sounding terrible. Also, ‘Blox’? Really? Actually, Boom Blox’s problems go even further than that. I had heard the game described numerous times, stared at multiple screenshots and even watched videos, but at no point did I really ‘get it’ until I actually sat down and played it. But that’s beside whatever the point I am trying to make is. The name is the first stumbling block that doomed it to financially unviable sales mediocrity via the following process…

Let’s start with the manager guy, he’s probably hung-over and it’s that time of the week where he finds himself staring at a printout of upcoming games. Lodged between ‘Atari – My Horse and Me’ and ‘Crave Entertainment – George of the Jungle and the Search for the Secret’ he spots ‘EA Games – Boom Blox’. This guy doesn’t follow games, he hasn’t heard of it, he doesn’t know Steven Speilberg is involved. What he does know is that good games have names like “God of War”, “Call of Duty” or “World of Warcraft”, or they have “Mario” in them somewhere. Games with names like “Boom Blox” just sit around gathering mounds of dust and being laughed at by chavs, so the theoretical manger who might of otherwise written ‘hundreds and hundreds!’ in the ordering number column sighs heavily and writes ‘two-ish’.

Next we come to the average joe. At least he has more to work with than just the rubbish name. He has a whole piece of box art to work with!

Yeah… the dude probably doesn’t even notice Steven Spielberg name written on there in tiny letters, and it’s not like that’s necessarily going to do it as the guy remembers watching ‘AI’ and isn’t eager to repeat that mistake. Anwyay, this game has poor box art from the point of view of actually trying to convince anyone to pick it up, though that’s not to say it’s misrepresentative or anything. So a combination of a poor name and poor picies will lead to less copies being in stores, and less chance that anyone is actually going to consider buying this.

For those of you who remain unconvinced, I would like to draw your attention to “Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure” which suffered the exact same fate a few months ago. It did excellently in the media, terrible in the stores. Why? Well obviously the name is horrible and unwieldy, the box art is a bit like this:

That’s not going to convince anyone, dammit!

Another example would be Beautiful Katamari…

The sales clerk looked at me like I had said the most hilarious series of words he had heard in ages when I asked if Beautiful Katamari was in stock yet. Again, if you are familiar with the Katamari series it’s fine and pretty much what you’d expect. It’s just please don’t start whining when it doesn’t sell very well.

Oh yeah, there was also ‘Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords’. I remember looking for this game when it came out. I think most stores in central london must of gotten about 3 copies in, and once again I blame this entirely on it’s godawful name. Breaking the trend, Puzzle Quest did actually do quite well, though that’s mostly because it was released on every platform that has ever existed, and people eventually people started saying “Oh, puzzle QUEST! Right!”. The name certainly didn’t do it any favours.

What am I suggesting? I don’t know, use common sense or something. They could try going out into the street and asking people ‘Would you buy a game called Beautiful Katamari?’ and judge their reaction. Or I guess they could use the ‘x of y’ format. Though we would end up with “Cubes of Death”, “Island of Treasure”, “Quest of Puzzles” and “Sphere of Shit”.