Wordle, the insanely popular word game, was created by Josh Wardle (good one) as a gift for his partner but is now owned by The New York Times Company (NYT). The game was purchased for a price that was “in the low-seven figures,” but why was it sold in the first place? To understand why Wordle sold out, we need to know about its history.
Wardle was a former Reddit software engineer and created “The Button” and “r/place”, which made history as being some of the best social experiments ever done on the internet. As said previously, Wordle was made as a love letter to Wardle’s partner who got obsessed with NYT’s Spelling Bee and daily crossword games during the pandemic. Spelling Bee also inspired Wordle’s “one game a day” scarcity that was a big part in making the game blow up. In a way, NYT owning Wordle makes sense because it’s like the game went back to its roots and found its home. Wardle says in a statement: “New York Times Games play a big part in its origins, and so this step feels very natural to me.”
When the buyout happened, NYT said it would help “grow digital subscriptions to 10 million by 2025.” Despite many rumours saying that the game will change, they assure that it will “initially be free to play for new and existing players, and no changes will be made to its gameplay”. This might mean that the game will cost money to play in the future, but if it does happen, we can simply switch to the many clones available on the internet.
Wordle is selling out, but is it a bad thing?
It’s natural to want to root for the underdog. Wordle was a simple game made by one guy and we all loved how “indie” it felt. Now that it’s owned by a multi-billion dollar corporation, plenty of cynics have come to criticise the buyout, like Gizmodo saying the “E-N-E-M-Y of the people has struck A-G-A-I-N”.
In my opinion, I don’t think the buyout is that bad. Many people don’t realise that it costs money to run games and websites. Even the creator of Katapat (BM Wordle) had to upgrade his hosting plan because the website crashed after going viral. Wardle created the game without a team and funded it all by himself, with no ads on the website. Getting a couple million USD from a project that only took a couple days to make is insanely cool. Even if the NYT put a paywall behind the game (which does not seem likely), it feels odd to complain about something that you didn’t pay for in the first place.
You probably shouldn’t worry about ads on the games either, as NYT’s Spelling Bee game, among others, remain minimalist and simplistic in its design, with no intruding ads on the page. Oh, and if you’re worried about losing your streak, you can be assured that they are working “to make sure streaks and stats will work as they have to date.”
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