If you’re an active Twitter user (guilty here), chances are that you’ve come across a few coloured blocks every now and then. If so, you’re already acquainted with Wordle, 2022’s first major internet obsession.
In a deal that was announced this Monday, the game—which has drawn in millions of players every single day— was purchased by The New York Times for an ‘undisclosed price in the low seven figures’, according to Business Insider.
“I’ve long admired The Times’s approach to the quality of their games and the respect with which they treat their players,” Josh Wardle, said the British-born New Yorker who created the game. “Their values are aligned with mine on these matters and I’m thrilled that they will be stewards of the game moving forward.”
Wordle is a rare achievement in today’s social media landscape. A game as simple as it is popular, it grew from its initial audience of one (Wardle’s wife), and mushroomed into an inescapable internet phenomenon that brought friends and family together each morning, sharing an excellent game score or ranting about a game gone wrong.
“The game has done what so few games have done—it has captured our collective imagination and brought us all a little closer together,” said Jonathan Knight, the general manager of games at The New York Times.
How Did Fans Take It?
Considering that the game has so many fans across the globe, chances are that the player base would be polarized if the game left Wardle’s hands, which it inevitably did.
While the publication has confirmed that the game will continue to be free, several users on Twitter voiced concerns regarding the publication’s use of paywalls for content:
My favorite part of NYT buying Wordle is how they’re apparently reassuring everyone they’re not going to paywall it, but I wouldn’t know since I can’t read the article about it, because it’s fucking paywalled.
— Anna Bell (@liopleurodonic) January 31, 2022
If the New York Times makes Wordle a paid game, you can always just use your mind to guess a word every day
— Venom Lord (@aniceburrito) January 31, 2022
Some called out the Times for its apparent hypocrisy regarding budget cuts; a particularly tough issue when you consider that it is one of the most wealthy publications in the world:
— Andrew Cunningham (@AndrewWrites) January 31, 2022
Others raised the point that NYT earns a significant portion of income through advertisements, which in turn raises privacy concerns regarding web cookies. Think about it: The publication now owns the most popular morning word puzzle on the planet, and can charge a premium for any connected ad space:
I would be shocked if they tried to make you pay for it as is.
But I could see making you login so they can get more cookies on more machines.
— T.C. Aurelius (@q_aurelius) January 31, 2022
I’m glad the Wordle guy got paid. He made something that brought a tremendous amount of joy to people, and selling to the New York Times strikes me as one of the least noxious ways he could have gone about it.
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) February 1, 2022
A few even suggested some alternatives:
FWIW, because Wordle works entirely in the client, you can just Save Page As to keep a local copy if you’re worried about the NYT acquisition.
The list of future words is already in the code, it just picks the word on the basis of your computer’s date. It’s everything you need.
— Matt Dovey (@mattdoveywriter) February 1, 2022
Wardle also reached out to his fans, ensuring that he would work with NYT to keep all streaks and wins preserved.