Why everyone is suddenly playing Wordle, the daily word puzzle game

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Word fever spreads quickly. But what is behind this sudden boom?

The daily web-based, account-less word game playable on Apple AAPL,
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and Android GOOGL,
+1.66%

GOOG,
+ 1.55%
phones, tablets or desktops are causing a stir. On social networks, countless players share their results. Copy games are also becoming popular.

Josh Wardle, creator of Wordle has even been profiled in the New York Times. (But did not respond to a MarketWatch interview request.)

Basically, the game is a study in simplicity. Players have up to six attempts to guess the five-letter word of the day, with Wordle offering commentary after each try. If you choose one of the correct letters, Wordle will highlight it in a shade of yellow. If the letter is also in the correct space, the highlight will turn green.

Those who solve the puzzle are encouraged to share their results (without actually sharing the correct word itself). Hence the posts on Facebook and Twitter that say “Wordle in 4” or “Wordle in 5” (which means 4 or 5 tries), as well as comments added occasionally.

In a sense, Wordle is successful in part for the same main reason that other games find a fan base – it’s all about accessibility. “If you look at what makes a game popular, it’s usually very easy to learn the rules, but it takes a lifetime to master,” says Mark Griffiths, a professor at Nottingham Trent University in England who studies the game. and behavioral addiction.

The social component of Wordle, like sharing results, is also critical to its overnight success, experts say: the more people talk about the game, the more others learn about it and want to play, so its popularity snowballs. .

In a nutshell (or two), Wordle has “social currency,” says Brandon Gains, vice president of marketing for MonetizeMore, a company that works with website and app publishers. (Gains also wrote on what makes apps go viral.)

Of course, Wordle also benefits from the enduring popularity of word games, from Scrabble to crossword puzzles, and the New York Times’ relatively recent digital version of its popular Spelling Bee. Craig Chapple, strategist at Sensor Tower, a company that tracks the app industry, notes that word game apps generated nearly 500 million downloads in 2021. “There’s a totally huge market,” he says. .

Yet Wordle doesn’t necessarily follow the standard playbook for games – to the point that Mark Griffiths almost calls it an “anti-game” in its aesthetics and approach. But some think that might be part of its appeal.

For starters, Wordle isn’t app-based, which means it’s played via a website, which is not as typical for games that go viral. It’s also a game that doesn’t market itself in the traditional way and doesn’t try to gain subscribers through advertising.

“I think the rarity is part of the appeal… the Beanie Baby effect.”


– Jennifer Baum, New York publicist and Wordle player

The story goes that Wardle, a software engineer, created it to make his pun intended partner happy, without worrying about flashy graphics or, for that matter, without any business strategy.

Or, to quote the New York Times profile, “There are no ads or flickering banners; no window opens or asks for money. There is only the game on a black background.

Wardle himself, speaking to The Times, described his creation this way: “It’s just a game that’s fun.

It is also a game that intentionally limits your chances of playing it. You get a daily hit on Wordle – no more, no less. It’s a far cry from app-based games that try to keep you playing for hours (and this try to sell you improvements along the way).

‘Yes [Wardle] wants to turn [Wordle] in a business it looks like it can.


– Brandon Monetization GainsMore

The daily limitation seems to work in Wordle’s favor. Jennifer Baum, a New York publicist and fan of the game, calls it the “Beanie Baby Effect”, referring to the plush keepsakes that exploded in popularity at one point because they became hard to come by.

“I think the rarity is part of the appeal,” she said of Wordle.

It is difficult to say if Wordle will see its popularity continue to rise. Like any other popular cultural phenomenon, a game may have its moment, but the moment flies by, say those who follow the gaming industry.

It also remains to be seen whether Wardle, who has named his game after a game of his own last name, will eventually attempt to monetize his creation in some way.

Yet the opportunity clearly exists. “If he wants to make it a business, it looks like he can,” Brandon Gains said.

Read on: This National Spelling Bee contestant is also a basketball prodigy who was in a commercial with Stephen Curry

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