Word up! Players wonder about Wordle's puzzling fate
New York, New York - It's happened: Wordle, the free five-letter online word puzzle played by millions of people every day – the majority being millennials – has been sold off. The new owner, the New York Times, says the online puzzle will remain free when it switches to its platform - but for how long?
Wordle is an "amazing, magical game" with a "very special, unique story," according to the head of games at The New York Times (NYT).
The comments come in the wake of news earlier this week that the newspaper had bought the popular online puzzle.
But the sale has many fans of the game wondering what Wordle's fate will be.
NYT puzzles are, after all, behind a paywall, and given the size of the paper's investment, it's unlikely that Wordle will forever remain the free and independent brain-teaser it has been until now.
Initially created by software engineer Josh Wardle for his partner after the pair began playing word puzzles during lockdown, Wordle has become an online phenomenon with millions of daily users and has now been bought for a sum "in the low seven figures".
Jonathan Knight, the general manager for games at The New York Times Company, said the firm was "thrilled" to be adding Wordle to its portfolio and confirmed it had "no plans at this time" to change the game's free-to-play nature, saying Wardle's creation was "lightning in a bottle."
"I am amazed at it and I am so impressed. I think it's an incredible story," Knight told BBC Radio 4's Today. "It's a game that brought us all together, and that's what's just so special about it. It's one word a day and it's the same word for everybody, and we're all trying to figure it out together."
"It's just incredibly clever and I think it's a game that we all needed because it just brings us together," he reiterated.
One of the few free daily joys left could soon be held hostage behind a paywall
Wordle requires players to guess a five-letter word within six guesses, with grey, yellow and green colored bricks used to indicate if guessed letters are part of the answer and whether they match the right place in the correct word.
Once solved, players are able to share their results on social media via rows of the same colored bricks but with the letters removed, so others can see how they did without having the puzzle ruined for them. It's this feature that has been attributed to the rapid rise in Wordle's popularity, with many being introduced to it after being intrigued by the "puzzling" yellow and green grids on platforms such as Twitter.
"It has many layers to it, as simple as it is. It works because it's a good use of your time," Knight said. "You get a great little feeling of accomplishment, but what I like about it is it reveals itself to you. Every word that you guess, you get feedback, and now you have a new puzzle. A new challenge. It's multiple puzzles built into one. It's deceptively simple but there's quite a bit going on."
Creator Wardle, who lives in New York City but was born in Wales, announced the sale on Twitter, thanking users for sharing touching stories about the effect the game has had on their lives and adding that he was "thrilled" about the takeover.
He said: "Since launching Wordle, I have been in awe of the response of everyone that has played. The game has gotten bigger than I ever imagined (which I suppose isn't that much of a feat given I made the game for an audience of one)."
He continued: "It has been incredible to watch the game bring so much joy to so many ... On the flip side, I'd be lying if I said this hasn't been overwhelming. After all, I am just one person, and it is important to me that, as Wordle grows, it continues to provide a great experience to everyone."
Yet, many players still are skeptical of the sale, and fear that one of their few free daily joys left will soon be held hostage behind a paywall.
Cover photo: IMAGO/NurPhoto