There’s no denying the fact that every new video game released meets with an over-saturated market and may well go unnoticed, as a consequence. To put it into perspective, a reported 10,696 individual games were released to Steam in 2021, an increase of 3,151% over the same figure for 2011. For many indie developers, this is an impossible scenario, as there’s simply no more room in players’ schedules for new games.
Just like books and movies, a title can mean everything. Being able to get a unique moniker in front of a few eyes can make the difference between success and a lifetime spent wondering what could have been. On the AAA scene, NieR: Automata is a good example of a game with an original title. However, the later DLC named 3C3C1D119440927 is perhaps a bit too brave for most players’ tastes.
There is a method in that particular bit of madness, though. NieR’s DLC title is actually a bit of a laundry list of what’s contained within it, namely, three costumes (3C), three arenas or colosseums (3C), and one new in-game dream (1D). The final sequence of numbers is simply the date on which the game takes place, the 27th of September in the far-flung year 11,944.
Still, naming anything within a video game remains a difficult task. An MMO like Lost Ark lets the player create multiple characters but the fact that these require unique names makes trying out the new Destroyer and Glavier classes an exercise in frustration. For this reason, a whole range of online tools exists to help players generate a fantasy name. They’ve evolved to include all sorts of different characteristics, too, like gender and species.
As in real life, a good name is crucial to a person’s identity as well as any potential brand they create to represent themselves. In eSports, competitors are often known purely by their screen names. For instance, the popular FaZe Clan has nearly 80 members on its roster, many of which are known by mononyms like Olofmeister, Tonyk, and Abezy. FaZe also counts a number of celebrities among its list of content creators, like Snoop Dogg and Lil Yachty, neither of which use their birth names regularly.
Inevitably, some creations do evolve beyond the original meaning of their names. Final Fantasy got its famous title in 1987 because creator Hironobu Sakaguchi could no longer justify working in game development after multiple failed launches. It was a swansong for the then-fledgling studio Squaresoft. Today, there are fifteen numbered Final Fantasy games and 80 spin-offs, giving the franchise a bit of an ironic name.
Japanese developers, in particular, seem to enjoy using odd names. Street Fighter’s Capcom has rehashed its beloved brawler so many times that it actually has a set of naming rules just for re-releases. Adding adjectives like Super (e.g. Super Street Fighter) usually means that nothing has changed apart from the addition of new characters. Conversely, lone numbers tend to remain sacred, indicating a brand new entry in the franchise.
So, while there might only be a handful of Street Fighter, Resident Evil, and Final Fantasy games that follow the main canon (the first two franchises are on five and eight titles, respectively), this trio of games actually have hundreds of titles in their respective catalogues. Resident Evil was split into several sub-brands after the turn of the millennium. These include Revelations, Outbreak, and Survivor.
Why? Sometimes it’s better to take risks with something that has low expectations than set your flagship product on fire.