The free daily word puzzle with millions of users has officially peaked in popularity, and The New York Times has acquired it for “low seven figures” only months after its launch.
By now, you or someone you know has caught the bug.
No, not that one. We’re talking about Wordle.
One word. Five letters. Six guesses. Once a day. Millions of players and counting.
Welcome to Wordle — the white-hot daily online word game created by a developer from Brooklyn that’s consuming the attention of more and more people around the world each day.
Simply scan your Twitter feed and you’ll see. Everyone from sports stars to celebrities to big-time brands is posting about the online word game, and its popularity doesn’t appear to be wearing off any time soon.
But what really is Wordle? Where did it come from? And perhaps most importantly, how will The Times’ ownership impact its future.
Let’s have a look.
The World of Wordle
Chances are someone you know has posted about it on Twitter or Facebook. Or perhaps you’ve received an unexpected text from a friend with their score attached. Or perhaps you’re already addicted.
Whatever your standing, you’re more than likely aware of Wordle.
The game was born out of the mind of Josh Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn who actually created it for his significant other during the doldrums of the pandemic. Wardle’s inspiration for Wordle is well documented in this story in The New York Times.
The game, which according to The Times had only 90 players on Nov. 1, had roughly 300,000 around the time of the article’s publishing date on Jan. 3.
And now, several weeks later, thanks to some high-powered social media shares from the likes of Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, the online puzzle is estimated to have over 3 million players worldwide.
That figure is likely growing as you read this.
But why is Wordle so popular? What is it exactly about the word game that people love —and hate?
What’s with Wordle?
Wordle is about as simple of a website experience as it gets.
There are no advertisements. Zero pop-ups. Not even some vague mention of its creator or links to social media profiles pinned to the bottom of the page or anything. You don’t even need to download an App. Nothing. It’s just a free game. A three-minute distraction.
In the hyper-digital world we live in today, that’s saying a lot.
But you either love it or you hate it.
The lovers are the ones posting their scores or using them as inspiration for content. The haters are the ones putting others on blast for posting their scores or even making mention of the game.
Wordle is even getting the supreme meme treatment with a growing trend called “Not Wordle.”
What Will Wordle Be Next?
While there is technically a list of 12,000 words that could be used for Wordle, Wardle narrowed down the list to about 2,500.
So, with one word each day, that means we are guaranteed at least another 6.85 years of Wordle. But a lot could change between then and now.
Up until its acquisition on Jan. 31, it was all up to Wardle on what to do next with Wordle.
According to this interview with the BBC, Wardle was insistent that the site remain free and simple.
“I don’t understand why something can’t just be fun. I don’t have to charge people money for this and ideally would like to keep it that way,” he said.
Prior to The Times’ purchase, Wardle was also reportedly getting interest from investors who wanted to be part of the world of Wordle.
The Times, in announcing the acquisition, said the game would initially remain free to new and existing players.
“The Times remains focused on becoming the essential subscription for every English-speaking person seeking to understand and engage with the world,” the company statement said. “New York Times Games are a key part of that strategy.”
But will The Times end up putting the viral hit behind its paywall in an effort to drive digital subscriptions? Or will it keep it as Wardle wanted?
For now, sit back, relax and enjoy it. Because one day, the Wordle we know now will be gone.