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Wordle: once-a-day word game acquired by The New York Times

Paper buys viral guessing game for a price in the ‘low seven figures’

Wordle

A simple online word game that had just 90 players in November has been acquired by The New York Times (NYT) in a seven-figure deal.

Wordle, a guessing game where players have six attempts to decipher a five-letter word, is the brainchild of Josh Wardle, a former Reddit software engineer based in Brooklyn. 

The game was initially popular in his family’s WhatsApp group, but has grown massively over the last couple of months, attracting millions of daily players around the world.

The NYT said its purchase of Wordle “reflects the growing importance of games, like crosswords and Spelling Bee” and is part of the company’s quest to increase digital subscriptions to ten million by 2025.

“New York Times Games play a big part in [Wordle’s] origins, and so this step feels very natural to me,” said Wardle in a statement posted on Twitter

Wordle was acquired for a price “in the low seven figures” and the game will eventually move over to the NYT website. 

The company said that Wordle would “initially remain free to new and existing players”, sparking concerns among loyal fans that the game may go behind the NYT’s paywall in the future.

“The NYT took one nice and simple thing that a lot of people really liked, a dumb bit of fun in our exhaustingly dark times, and implied that they’ll stick it behind a paywall. Exhausting,” wrote one Twitter user.

How to play

Wordle players have six goes to work out a five-letter word. When they guess a correct letter in the correct spot in the word, the letter goes green. A correct letter in an incorrect spot turns orange, while an incorrect letter becomes grey. 

The game can be played just once a day and participants are shown a countdown to the next Wordle, which refreshes at midnight, once their turn is complete. 

Players are able to share their results on social media via a coloured grid as opposed to the actual words, making it spoiler-free.

Wardle created the game for his partner, Palak Shah, after the pair started regularly attempting the New York Times Spelling Bee (a word game where participants see how many words they can make out of seven letters) and the daily crossword. 

‘Low frills’

The limit of one game per day was partially inspired by the Spelling Bee, Wardle told the NYT in an interview published on 3 January. It “leaves people wanting more”, he explained.

There are around 2,500 Wordle words, which Wardle thinks should last for a few years. The selection was narrowed down by Shah, who sorted through 12,000 five-letter words, marking whether they were familiar to her or not. 

The game has been described as “low-frills” due to its lack of ads, pop-ups and flashing banners. “It’s something that encourages you to spend three minutes a day,” said Wardle in his NYT interview. “And that’s it. Like, it doesn’t want any more of your time than that.”

Wordle can currently be played at powerlanguage.co.uk

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