The name of a studio has no bearing on the game’s quality. You might disagree and point to a game you were more inclined to play because of the name on the box, and that’s fair, but the reason for that is not because the name itself was so cool. It was because the name on the box had made good games before and you trusted it to make more good games, and the next thing you know you’re going home with a copy of Hoshigami because it’s connected to Final Fantasy Tactics, right? And good times were had by none.
MMO studios are no exception. Some MMOs are run by studios with great names. Some have terrible names. One is not predicative of the other and has no bearing on quality; a studio named We Make Garbage MMOs could still actually make good games. So here I just want to grade these studios based on their names. Why? Because as I have stated before, I have a strong interest in judging things based on names. If you are going to protest that you want witty and intelligent commentary on design instead of a silly list of names, well, I want a Grimace shake. We don’t always get what we want.
I have a love-hate relationship with Bungie. Marathon was an amazing FPS series that really pushed the boundaries of what could be done within the framework established by Doom, but since most of the series was exclusive to Macintosh and this was before Apple had branded itself in a successful fashion, only about four people actually played them. Then it made Halo, which was kind of… not really improving on what made Marathon good and was popular mostly because of endless deathmatches that are the exact opposite of what I enjoy from video games. In the middle, it made Oni, which arguably should have been punished by jail time. Now it makes Destiny 2.
However, throughout all these twists and turns, one thing has remained the same. That name is really stupid. It’s never sounded good. It’s not the worst name ever, but it isn’t a good one. It feels like someone just took the name everyone disliked the least and now you’re known as Bungie forever. Oh well.
2. Gaijin Entertainment
So… it feels really weird to type this. I don’t feel like I should have to type this because it seems so obvious. When you name your video game studio, don’t name it after an ethnic slur. Even if it’s a slur in a language you don’t speak! That actually makes it even weirder!
3. Creative Business Unit III
Congratulations, Naoki Yoshida! Not only did you take Final Fantasy XIV from being a laughingstock to being one of the biggest MMORPGs in the world, but you also oversaw the launch of Final Fantasy XVI, the critically best-received single-player entry in the series since Final Fantasy X. What an amazing success story! And your studio is technically named Creative Business Unit III. That is the studio behind all of this stuff.
I can’t think of a better encapsulation of the thesis of this article than this. A studio that is producing amazing games has a name that sounds like a temporary placeholder until we come up with a real name. Absolutely bonkers.
4. Bluehole Studios
I really hope this studio name sounds super cool in Korean because in English it’s one of those names that sounds kind of dirty without actually being dirty. Like if you named your studio “Mulepoker Games” or “Lickmaster Studio” or something. It just feels inappropriate on some level.
5. Daybreak Games
Sony Online Entertainment wasn’t a great name, but it was descriptive. But then the studio broke away, and it picked a name that clearly tried to evoke the idea of a new dawn breaking, like the teams were finally free of the yoke of Sony and could do all of the awesome things they always wanted to do! Like shut down projects, and start new projects no one wanted, and lay off developers, and generally fail to do anything other than churn out new expansions for old games and also rely on games that used to belong to Turbine for whatever goodwill they still have!
Now, I can’t mark them down for the fact that the unflattering nickname “Theybreak Games” fits so well. But I do find that deeply funny.
6. Catnip Games
Despite the last line, I will absolutely blame Catnip Games for picking a name that is very easily changed to being about a far less appealing portion of cat biology. Maybe it’s just me, but I would think that calling yourself Catnip Games would imply that you have a product people are flocking to enjoy. Then again, I own two cats, and I also will admit that all of the various weird decisions around Shroud of the Avatar do serve like catnip to me. So maybe it works? Whatever, still a bad name.
7. One More Game
So I guess Spellcraft looks… fine? But this is not a good studio name. Like, I get the reference; the idea is to find a way to name your studio after the infectious feel of “let me just play one more game and then I’ll stop for the night, wow it is four in the morning.” Good idea! But in practice it comes off as “here is yet another game studio” and that’s just not a good place to be. It’s not catchy enough to be distinctive. Sorry, folks.
8. Fairytale Distillery
If it weren’t clear here, the point of this is not really dunking on games or ambitions. Das Tal didn’t work out despite the earnest efforts of a development team that believed in it. That’s a shame. But the name of the studio always makes me stop midway through, like when I’m trying to catch myself from tripping as I’m waking up. Are you making liquor out of fairy tales? Is that what’s happening here? I don’t understand what I’m supposed to be picturing, and it confuses me. You sound like you should be selling me, like, gin with gold flecks in it or something.
Does that exist? It sounds like it should exist. Let me know in the comments.
There were a lot of red flags with Pathfinder Online, red flags that would be waved across the whole of the crowdfunded MMO theater for years, and whatever, I just did an article about this. But the studio name doesn’t help. “Goblin” does not bring to mind images of competence or trustworthy behavior. It sounds like someone is naming a studio We Will Scam You.
Was this a scam? No! It was, again, an earnest attempt that failed. Not every failure has some great story or narrative behind it; sometimes it’s just as simple as people trying to make a game and it not working out. But you don’t want to plant that idea in people’s heads from the get-go.
10. Reaper Games
When you’re taking over a struggling game and then trying to rebrand it into being a crypto-blockchain-NFT monstrosity no one wanted, followed by multiple presales of nothing that totally fail to get traction… like… maybe you don’t want your studio name to bring to mind the idea that you’re going to be ushering the game to its final rest?
Actually, wait, this is totally appropriate. Maybe this name is actually awesome.