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Wordle creator sells viral game to New York Times, promises it will remain free

Josh Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn, is the creator of the viral word puzzle Wordle. He just sold his game for an "undisclosed" seven-figure sum to The New York Times.

Wordle creator sells viral game to New York Times, promises it will remain free
Image Source: Internet Word Game Wordle Goes Viral. HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 12. (Photo Illustration by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

In news that has devastated many social media users, the creator of the wildly popular word game Wordle has decided to sell the daily puzzle to The New York Times. In a post uploaded to Twitter, Josh Wardle shared that while he was grateful for the international support for the game, it had become difficult for him to manage the puzzle all alone on a daily basis. Wardle assured players that they would be able to retain their wins and streaks, and more importantly, that the game would always remain free for everyone to play, The New York Times reports.


The news outlet purchased the daily puzzle game for an "undisclosed" seven-figure sum from Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn. While some users were happy for the creator, who finally received a payout for his creation, others worried about whether The New York Times would place a paywall on the game as time progressed. "Josh I love you (and Wordle) so much," one Twitter user posted. "But we all know that The New York Times is going to destroy everything that made your game pure and great (free of adverts, paywalls, sign-ins, tracking, etc.)." Another added, "No shade. Make your bank. But man, I was hoping for a different ending to this story."


Worries about maintaining access to the game may not be misplaced. In the breaking news story, Marc Tracy writing for The New York Times noted, "The company said the game would initially remain free to new and existing players." At present, the game is played by millions of users across the world. In mid-January, only 300,000 players clocked in for the daily word puzzle. Therefore, the game presents an immense opportunity for the news outlet to generate some revenue. Already, The New York Times Company places a paywall on some of its existing game offerings.


Nonetheless, there were some users who expressed their excitement for Wardle. "I'm really happy for Josh Wardle," Matt 'TK' Taylor, a product manager at The Financial Times, posted on Twitter. "Not as happy that the nicest slice of the internet is sold, but it's hard for any of us to judge, having never been offered life-changing sums for what amounts to a weekend project gone viral." Taylor highlighted three thoughts regarding the buyout: first, Wardle was inspired by the news outlet's games such as Spelling Bee; second, that he could not imagine how The New York Times could possibly monetize Wordle given its inherent shared experience; and third, that the paper would not want to "extinguish the goodwill of 10,000,000 potential customers by suddenly charging to enter."


It may be a while until we are able to test Taylor's theories. In the meantime, Wardle shared his thoughts on selling his creation, which has brought millions of people together. "The game has gotten even bigger than I imagined," he wrote. "It has been incredible to watch a game bring so much joy to so many... On the flip side, I'd be lying if I said this hasn't been a little overwhelming... I've long admired The New York Times's approach to their games and the respect with which they treat their players... When the game moves to the New York Times site, it will be free to play for everyone, and I am working with them to make sure your wins and streaks will be preserved. Thank you all for playing and making Wordle an unforgettable experience."


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