In early 2014, Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen pulled “Flappy Bird” from app stores because the most popular mobile game of the time had become too hot to handle. Claiming that he “couldn’t take it anymore” and that it had “ruined [his] simple life,” Dong dropped 50 million Android downloads and ad revenue of $50,000 a day. Eight years later, Josh Wardle had a markedly different fate in store.
Wordle, his popular word game, is now owned by The New York Times, earning him an undisclosed seven-figure sum. Unlike Flappy Bird, we don’t know its user count, and the game had no ad revenue to attract the world’s most famous newspaper. Still, Wardle’s game ticked all the right boxes as a business proposition, elevating all the fun of classic physics puzzles into your web browser.
Is Wordle the best word game of all time and the most worthy successor to Scrabble and crosswords? Publishers and scholars see the virality of Wordle in the unique context of the pandemic. The crossword, which was invented in 1913, didn’t enter the NYT until 1942 as “a diversion from hard news” during World War II, NYT communications director Jordan Cohen told Mint. “Today we face a similarly challenging world and our games again offer that diversion – that feeling that you may not be able to solve all the problems in the world, but for ten minutes to an hour you can. that, finding something fun and maybe even a connection with others that you might not otherwise have,” Cohen added, calling Wordle “a delightful and hugely popular game.”
Some see the reliance on Wordle fading as the world returns to normal, but the high-value NYT acquisition shows industry players are optimistic. Shannon DeVito, director of books at US bookseller Barnes & Noble, said sales of crossword puzzles and physical puzzles in general had soared during the pandemic as customers shifted to home businesses. Such activities took young people away “from the hustle and bustle of everyday life”, she said, believing the trend was here to stay.
Indeed, Wordle’s rapid rise sets it apart from all the best puzzlers past and present. On Google, searches for “word games” were popular for years, but Wordle has now garnered eight times the peak volumes achieved by “word games” – and that’s almost as much as searches on Netflix and Yahoo. and more than covid -19. Robert Lesser, a US-based software engineer, estimates that as of March 5, Wordle-related tweets numbered nearly 15 million and the game had been played 229 million times.
world of words
“Wordle’s popularity is partly linked to this moment in history,” said Erin Sebo, head of English at Flinders University in Adelaide, who has written a book on medieval riddles. “The internet means that writing is an increasingly important part of people’s work and social lives, so it’s no surprise that we’re fascinated by a new pun.”
Perhaps that’s why Wordle quickly transcended language barriers. As of March 22, fans had created 691 versions of Wordle in at least 140 languages, including Marathi, Tamil and Hindi, according to data compiled by Júda Ronén. There are also popular versions based on arithmetic and recognition of country flags and maps. These builds protect Wordle from its biggest downside: Unlike the unlimited results you can take in crosswords, Scrabble, and Sudoku, Wordle’s stock of five-letter words will eventually run out. But thanks to these spillovers across forms and geographies, the game could last for years.
What’s in a game?
Most clones stick to Wordle’s basic USPs: Unlike most things online that encourage “excessive behavior,” it only comes once a day, with the same headache for everyone, Sebo said. . “Wordle’s simplicity is part of its appeal,” said Penny Paxman of the University of Calgary, who has studied the impact of Scrabble on the human brain. “It’s easy to start playing and doesn’t take a lot of time.”
Nostalgic Americans find parallels with the 1980s TV series Lingo and an even older game, Jotto. Still, NYT catching the Wordle bus makes perfect business sense. Its games section alone has over a million subscribers and its puzzles were played over 500 million times last year. Wordle was an obvious choice.
New age games need hits and revenue to stay famous, but Wordle plays by the old rules. Though still popular, crossword puzzles and sudoku puzzles no longer receive tweets. For Wordle, expect “the initial craze” to pass, but it may well become a “permanent feature like crossword puzzles,” Sebo said.
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