Wordle, the once-a-day word game that’s been delighting puzzle nerds (and cluttering Twitter feeds) since launching in October of last year, has been purchased by the New York Times… reportsThe New York Times. So long, old buddy.
The game is the brainchild of Josh Wardle and his partner Palak Shah, and once day it gives players six chances to guess a five-letter word. In an interview with the Times earlier this month, Wardle admitted that the project was inspired in part by Spelling Bee, one of the paper’s subscription games which Wordle will likely appear alongside shortly.
In part, the appeal of World was that — unlike much of the internet today — it was in now way ad- or subscription-supporter. There was no app (even though some clones attempted to capitalize on that fact.) It was, two years into a global pandemic, a rare, unalloyed good. The Times did not disclose the exact terms of the Wordle acquisition, though it stated in a press release that it paid “in the low-seven figures.” We’ve reached out for comment to the Times on if any changes are slated.
On Twitter, Wardle stated that while “it has been incredible to watch [Wordle] bring so much joy to so many” he has found the experience “a little overwhelming,” given that he’s been maintaining the free, highly-trafficked game himself. He notes that once it migrates to the Times, Wordle “will be free to play for everyone,” and win streaks will likely be preserved.
Wordle became an overnight sensation, thought it was hardly its creator’s first brush with mass online fame. While employed by Reddit, he was responsible for both “Place” and “The Button,” both of which garnered plenty of positive attention, though neither with the scale or staying power of Wordle, which is estimated to have millions of daily users. A bot (run by another former Reddit employee, Kevin O’Connor) tracks the number of solves that are shared to Twitter via the now-ubiquitous black, green and gold emojis. It regularly cracks 250,000 such tweets daily.
The game has itself become a sort of template for a new variety of word puzzles, spawning a variety of offshoots that range from legitimately interesting challenges — like the two-column Dordle, the work-backwards Crosswordle or the adversarial Absurdle — to silly or absurd riffs such as Sweardle and Lewdle. More variations are seemingly released every week. Still, it’s the end of an era for the game that started it all, even if functionally for players it seems things will remain much the same.