The New York Times’ acquisition of Wordle has created uproar on social media, with fans expressing fears that the popular online word game, which is currently free to play, might be put behind a paywall.
Announcing on Monday that it had bought Wordle for an undisclosed price in the low seven figures, the Times, as well as software developer and founder Josh Wardle, said the game would ‘initially’ remain free for existing and new players.
Wardle said in an official statement that the app, which is a wordplay on his last name, ‘will be free to play for everyone, and I am working with them to make sure your wins and streaks will be preserved’.
That wording led some social media users to suggest the media company would soon allow only subscribers access.
‘I have never seen Twitter as immediately mad as it is about the NYT Wordle buyout,’ one user tweeted.
‘The NYT took one nice and simple thing that a lot of people really liked, a dumb bit of fun in our exhaustingly dark times, and implied that they’ll stick it behind a paywall.’
The New York Times’ acquisition of Wordle has created uproar on social media
Another user, who goes by @summer_maisie, tweeted: ‘If @NYT puts wordle behind a paywall or on a paid app, or if any advertising is put there, I will never play it again.’
Author Jayne Denker shared: ‘Just when I was getting the hang of it. @NYT, you ruin everything.#keepwordlefree.’
Calen Akin, from Canada, voiced her frustration that the paywall might prevent her from playing, sharing: ‘Don’t spoil this innocent pastime.
After creating Wordle to play with his girlfriend Palak Shah, Brooklyn-based software engineer Josh Wardle released it to the public in October. Within months it became a global phenomenon, with celebrities such as Trevor Noah joining the bandwagon.
Wardle, who graduated from university in London in 2006 and moved to the U.S.
for a masters in fine arts in 2008, came up with the idea for the game while working as a software engineer at Reddit.
Thousands of game users across the U.S.
and Canada started a #KeepWorldleFree campaign on Twitter to keep it free after New York Times bought it for an undisclosed price in the seven figures on Monday
The once-a-day online game gives a player six chances to figure out a five-letter word, using the least number of guesses.
A green brick indicates that the letter is correct and in the exact location; a yellow brick indicates that the letter appears in the word but in a different place; and a gray or black brick indicates that the letter does not appear anywhere in the word.
The app had 90 users by the beginning of November but continued to grow to 300,000 users by mid-January and now millions play the game daily.
The sale comes only four weeks after Wardle insisted that charging people money for the game ‘was never the goal and I would ideally like to keep it that way’.
Josh Wardle, a British software engineer living in New York City, created the Wordle app during the pandemic to keep himself and his girlfriend entertained as they are fans of word puzzles
Wardle and his girlfriend Palak Shah were the first two users of the app, which now has more than 300,000 users on it
‘I would be lying if I said this hasn’t been a little overwhelming,’ Wardle said on a post announcing the news on Twitter.
‘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. For more info regarding brandonrestaurant review the site. ‘
The Times said it expects the acquisition to broaden its digital content as it tries to reach the goal of 10 million subscribers by 2025.
The newspaper was an early adopter of the paywall when it started digital subscription plans back in 2011.
That strategy helped it buck the trend of falling print revenues and build a digital business.
It has also bought into other digital media such as subscription-based audio app Audm and product review website Wirecutter. Last month it agreed to pay $550 million in cash for sports site The Athletic.
As the Times also seeks to grow paid readers outside its core news content, games and puzzles have become a key part of a strategy to keep its audience engaged on its apps and websites.
Its Games unit, which has more than one million subscriptions, started with the Daily Crossword, and later launched games such as Spelling Bee, Tiles, Letter Boxed and Vertex.