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The New York Times purchased Wordle — the viral online wordplay game that has either overtaken your morning or your social media timeline or both — in an undisclosed seven-figure deal, the company announced Monday.
“If you’re like me, you probably wake up every morning thinking about Wordle, and savoring those precious moments of discovery, surprise and accomplishment,” Jonathan Knight, general manager for The New York Times Games, said in a statement. “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.”
Josh Wardle, a Brooklyn software engineer who first made Wordle as a game for his partner to play in October 2021, said in a statement posted to Twitter that the acquisition was the next logical step as he had struggled to keep up with the game’s booming popularity.
“On the flip side, I’d be lying if I said this hasn’t been a little overwhelming,” Wardle said. “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.”
Both the Times and Wardle said that when the game moves to the media giant’s website it will still be free for users to play. However, the Times appeared to hedge this somewhat by saying the game would “initially remain free.”
Contacted for clarification, New York Times spokesperson Jordan Cohen told BuzzFeed News, “We don’t have set plans for the game’s future.”
“At this time, we’re focused on creating added value to our existing audience, while also introducing our existing games to an all new audience that has demonstrated their love for word games,” Cohen said. “Right now, the game will be free to play.”
With just one game per day, Wordle requires users to guess a five-letter word. Squares will light up green if your guess contains a letter in the right place and yellow if the letter is in the wrong place. You have only six tries to get it right.
Millions of people now play the game each day, up from just 90 on Nov. 1. Part of the game’s popularity online can be traced back to a small group of nerdy New Zealanders, who began tweeting about their newfound Wordle obsession in November.
Wardle said he felt the New York Times acquisition was fitting because he came up with the idea for Wordle after he and his partner became obsessed with the Times’ Spelling Bee game and daily crossword.
“Thank you all for playing and making Wordle an unforgettable experience,” he said.