Crosswords, eat your heart out: ‘The New York Times’ buys ‘Wordle’

by Keane Eacobellis

The New York Times has announced they have acquired the sudden hit Wordle.

The viral game, released last fall, revolves around guessing a new five-letter word each day, with only six chances to get it right.

The new acquisition stands alongside other games, like crosswords and Spelling Bee, in the company’s goal of growing their digital subscriptions to 10 million by 2025.

If you’re a fan of the game, which you can currently play on an ad-free website, not to worry: NYT said the game would initially remain free for the time being — both to existing and new players.

Brooklyn-based software engineer Josh Wardle netted a cool “low seven figures” for his game, according to NYT.

Wordle, which parodies its creator’s name, has had a meteoric rise in popularity since its initial release in Oct. 2021, having grown from 90 users on Nov. 1 to 300,000 by the middle of Jan. 2021. Today, millions now play the game daily.

Part of its viral success has to do with sharing the results without uttering the winning answer. The exportable grid of black, yellow, and green emoji tells an individualized story of triumph — or lack thereof — for those who wish to share it on social media. But the multicolored blocks are notoriously hard to interpret for those who are not in the know.

Taking to social media, Wardle made a post to give fans of his game an update straight from the horse’s mouth, saying in part, “The game has gotten bigger than I ever imagined.”

The creator went on to say that while he was happy the game brought “so much joy to so many,” he admitted the whirlwind experience has been “a little overwhelming.”

“Given this, I am incredibly pleased to announce that I’ve reached an agreement with The New York Times for them to take over running Wordle going forward.”

Describing himself as someone who has “long admired the NYT’s approach to their games,” Wardle clarified that he would be working with them to make sure each players’ wins and streaks will be preserved and that “it will be free to play for everyone” once it moved to the NYT site.

Despite NYT’s and Wardle’s indication the game would remain initially free, many reactions to the news have been fairly negative on Twitter.

As some users pointed out, this seems to stem from the perception that the publication would inevitably put the game “behind a paywall.” And it was predicted by many that such an outcome could be a hindrance to its future success.

Another user lamented the fact that they might miss the cultural moment entirely by being unable to wrap their head around the game before its predicted demise.

And while some Twitter users congratulated Wardle on the successful sale, they couldn’t help be express mourning over the potential loss of its pick-up-and-playability, including the free-to-play aspect accessible through its no-frills, ad-free website.

If you need an even more elaborate breakdown of just what Wordle is, and what all those seemingly random-colored blocks are that you’ve probably seen your friends posting on social media, we’ve got an article to explain it in-depth, which you can read right here.

About the author

Danny Peterson

Danny Peterson

Danny Peterson covers entertainment news for WGTC and has previously enjoyed writing about housing, homelessness, the coronavirus pandemic, historic 2020 Oregon wildfires, and racial justice protests. Originally from Juneau, Alaska, Danny received his Bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Alaska Southeast and a Master's in Multimedia Journalism from the University of Oregon. He has written for The Portland Observer, worked as a digital enterprise reporter at KOIN 6 News, and is the co-producer of the award-winning documentary 'Escape from Eagle Creek.'