The New York Times announced today that its Games division would be purchasing Wordle—everyone’s favorite five-letter-word guessing game and emoji-square generator—for a number in the “low-seven figures.”
The sale caps a meteoric rise for the simple game. It rode word-of-mouth recommendations and glowing media coverage to prominence, was subject to multiple copycat apps that Apple removed from its App Store, and inevitably generated backlash from people who don’t like it when other people have fun in public.
“At the time it moves to The New York Times, Wordle will be free to play for new and existing players, and no changes will be made to its gameplay,” the Times notes in its press release. Presumably after Wordle has moved, the Times will tweak its gameplay and impose a registration requirement or paywall as it sees fit. Many of the Times’ games, including Sudoku, Spelling Bee, and the mini-version of its crossword, can also be played for free without signing in or registering. But a subscription is required to play the full version of the crossword puzzle and access the NYT’s crossword puzzle archive.
Wordle creator Josh Wardle released his own statement saying that he was letting the Times “take over running Wordle going forward” and that he is working with the paper to make sure that current players’ win records and streaks will carry over. Wardle detailed to the Times in early January how the game had begun as a word guessing game for his partner.
“I think people kind of appreciate that there’s this thing online that’s just fun,” Wardle told the Times in that piece. “It’s not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs. It’s just a game that’s fun.”
Listing image by Aurich Lawson / Ars Technica