Will ‘Wordle’ Still Be Free After New York Times Deal?

Well, the big Wordle news today is that Josh Wardle has sold his hit viral word puzzler to none other than The New York Times. I’ve noted previously that the ad-free, free-to-play game was not monetized in any way.

That turned out not to be true. Wardle made out like a bandit with a seven-figure deal for his clever little game. I think I’m in the wrong business! Maybe it’s time to create some elegant word puzzle game that’s free and catchy and goes viral and gets scooped up by a major publication!

If only it were that easy.

Wordle is, by every metric, a massive hit and has been growing rapidly since it was released in October, 2021. By November 1st, the game had 90 players. Two months later—300,000 daily players. Now? Millions.

Via the New York Times:

“What’s nice about Wordle is how simple, pleasant and attractive the computer interface is,” Will Shortz, editor of the New York Times Crossword said. Limiting players to six guesses per day and rationing out one puzzle per day adds excitement to the solving process, he said. “It’s a great puzzle, and it doesn’t take long to play, which make it perfect for our age when people have short attention spans.”

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“If you’re like me, you probably wake up every morning thinking about Wordle and savoring those precious moments of discovery, surprise and accomplishment,” said Jonathan Knight, general manager for The New York Times Games. “The game has done what so few games have done — it has captured our collective imagination and brought us all a little closer together. We could not be more thrilled to become the new home and proud stewards of this magical game and are honored to help bring Mr. Wardle’s cherished creation to more solvers in the months ahead.”

“I’ve long admired The Times’s approach to the quality of their games and the respect with which they treat their players,” Mr. Wardle said. “Their values are aligned with mine on these matters and I’m thrilled that they will be stewards of the game moving forward.”

What Does This Mean For The Future Of Wordle?

For now, the game will remain on its official website. Soon, it will migrate to the Times website and join the paper’s game section. “When the game 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 informs us. The unspoken implication, however, are those two dread words: “For now.”

For now, the game will remain at its current website. Then it will move to the NYTs website. Once there it will remain free for now until it almost certainly is moved behind the paywall. Why spend so much money on a game you can’t monetize?

I don’t blame Wardle one bit for selling. He wasn’t making money off his game and this changed all that. I am a little bummed out, however. Wordle was so simple and pure. It was a diamond in the rough, avoiding all the annoying monetization nonsense of the modern mobile game. Put it behind a paywall and you lose some of that, even if that’s still better than annoying ads, time-gates, micro-transactions and the like.

Wordle has blazed onto the cultural scene like a comet, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere fast, but my guess is this too shall fade, as all good things do. The New York Times is just helping it along, and maybe giving it a footing for the long-term, in a space where it can exist alongside crossword puzzles and other games. At least it will be in good company.

Check out my Wordle tips and tricks video below:

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The Tycoon Herald