By Mike Knight
In this article, we look at what Wordle is, and how a change of ownership has led to some online criticism.
What is Wordle?
Wordle is a free, web-based word game where players have six chances to guess a randomly selected five-letter word. Each day there’s a different word to guess. Players choose letters from a virtual keyboard and enter their choices into the five blank tiles/squares. Once a user is happy with their choices, they press a submit button. The right letter in the right tile shows up green, a correct letter but in the wrong tile shows up yellow, and a wrong letter (not in the word) shows up grey. If a user correctly guesses the word, they win the game and users who win the game two days in a row receive a winning streak.
As well as enjoying the brain-teasing aspect of the game, users share and compare their scores on social media. The game was created and developed by Welsh software engineer and former Reddit employee Josh Wardle and has only recently been sold and moved to the platform of The New York Times Company.
It has been reported that Wordle now has 2 million players globally thanks to its viral appeal. Josh Wardle’s Twitter account shows how engaged many users have become with the game, with many sharing their Wordle ideas and stories.
Now owned by The New York Times
The New York Times bought Wordle from Josh Wardle in February 2022. It is reported that the NYT paid a seven-figure sum!
Where to play Wordle
Wordle can be played by going to www.nytimes.com/games/wordle.
Spoiler bot stopped
Just prior to the sale of Wordle to the NYT, Twitter had to ban a bot from its platform called “The Wordlinator,” because it was responding to peoples’ tweets by giving spoilers for the next day’s word. The bot was also issuing rude comments.
Trouble at mill?
When Josh Wardle sold the game to the NYT, he announced on his Twitter account that he “long admired the NYT’s approach to their games and the respect with which they treat their players”.
However, since the sale to the NYT, users have been loudly voicing several concerns online. These include:
- Users who navigated to the game’s original home at powerlanguage.co.uk were redirected to it’s new home on the NYT website. Unfortunately, some people reported that the move to the new online home had wiped their winning streaks.
- Complaints that the game has become too difficult, and this has led to users breaking their much-valued winning streaks. For example, the difficulty of Wordle 245’s answer led to comments that it ruined the day of some users.
- Criticism that the word choices had become more obscure and ‘random’.
What does this mean for your business?
The New York Times made the point that acquiring Wordle gave “millions more people around the world another reason to turn to its platform, so it is clear why it paid such a sum for a word game. Wordle, however, is an example of how engaged people can become with some games, brands, tv programmes and more to the point where they feel a sense of familiarity and ownership. This is particularly prominent with Wordle because it becomes part of not just a habit or daily ritual, but because it can become linked with a user’s view of ‘self’ (through ability to solve the puzzle), and self-image e.g., sharing the results with friends and competing with friends. How closely some users had become involved and engaged with the reward or negative reinforcement aspect of the game, and the emotional response was illustrated by the those who said their day had been ruined by not being able to guess the word.
This story also illustrates how taking over ownership or management of an established entity, where there are many engaged stakeholders with an emotional connection and existing culture and norms can be a precarious situation. This becomes particularly apparent where changes or mistakes are made. No doubt The New York Times is paying very close attention to the daily management of the game and will be keen to avoid any further disruption which could have a negative rub-off effect on its brand and image.