Wordle, Our Small Ray of Joy, Has Been Bought and May No Longer Be Free

world bought free

Wordle, the “sourdough starter of Omicron”, has been bought out by the New York Times for an undisclosed “low seven figure sum.”

The popular online word-guessing game has soared in popularity over the past few weeks, bringing a small ray of joy to the ongoing nightmare of the pandemic. Much like sourdough and online pub trivia, the game has taken the internet by storm for reasons that are hard to explain.

But, like all good things, that joy appears to be short-lived with its recent buyout.

The NYT have said that the game “would initially remain free to new and existing players”, with many online interpreting this as evidence that it will soon be hidden behind their paywall like their other puzzle games.

Wordle’s creator, whose name, legitimately, is Josh Wardle, has shared his reaction to the news on Twitter, saying that he has been “in awe” of the response his game has received online but that the responsibility of running it has become too much for him.

“The game has gotten bigger than I ever imagined (which I suppose isn’t that much of a feat given I made the game for an audience of 1),” he wrote.

“I’d be lying if I said this hasn’t been a little overwhelming. After all, I am just one person, and it is important to me that, as Wordle grows, it continues to provide a great experience to everyone.”

Wardle, a Reddit engineer, created the game in October 2021 for his partner who loves puzzles. The game is deceptively simple; guess a five-letter word.

It gives players five blank tiles to fill in with their guess and six guesses to figure out the daily puzzle that resets every 24 hours. If the letters in that initial guess are in the word and in the same place, the letters will turn green. If they are in the word but not in the same place, they turn yellow while letters not in the word at all turn grey. This gives players an idea of what the word could be, working it out through trial and error and a bit of deductive thinking.

The NYT’s crossword editor, Will Shortz, praised Wordle as a “a great puzzle”, saying that it “doesn’t take long to play, which makes it perfect for our age when people have short attention spans.”

Jonathan Knight, the general manager for NYT Games, has said: “The game has done what so few games have done – it has captured our collective imagination and brought us all a little closer together.”

While some online are upset about the idea of the game possibly disappearing behind a paywall, others have backed Wardle for making money off a small passion project, earning a significant sum in an era where all content is expected to be free.

Others have, however, criticised its new owners for their lack of financial support for their employees and their heavily anti-union stance, noting the disparity between paying over $1 million USD for an online game and a denial of pay rises for their staff.

The big question next will be whether or not anyone is willing to actually pay to play this charming-but-not-essential online game.

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