Have you been wondering what those colorful blocks randomly arranged in tweets of many people are? Those are people’s performances in a word game called ‘Wordle’. It is all the rage at the moment and everyone seems to be playing that game. Wordle is a simple, free, and fun word puzzle where players have to guess a five-letter word in six tries. But how does Wordle make money when it’s free to use? Well, let’s find out.
How does Wordle make money? Wordle is not yet monetized and is completely free to play. However, given the recent purchase of Wordle by the New York Times, it may soon get monetized.
Wordle is an online word puzzle where players have to guess a five-letter word. There are no hints like crossword and one has to guess the word in six tries. The game is unique in the sense that one can only play it once a day as the game adds only a single word for people to guess every day. It does not have an application, but a website that is desktop and mobile compatible.
There are several reasons why it has gone viral over the past few months. It is really simple, free to play, easily accessible, and you can share your performance and compare it with other people.
The virality can be especially attributed to the fact that it is shareable in a way that does not spoil the surprise for anyone who has not played the puzzle of the day. A gamer can share his progress simply by clicking on the share button.
This reveals a grid of green and yellow squares which show one’s progress. The really good thing about sharing like this is that it does not reveal the actual letters but only the number of guesses it took them to arrive at the word.
How Do You Play Wordle?
The game is really simple to play. You get six chances to guess a five-lettered word. Every word you type in, there is an output from the game.
- If a letter in the word features in the word of the day and it is also in the correct place, the box turns green.
- If the letter features in the word but is not in the correct place, the box turns yellow.
- If the letter does not feature in the word at all, the box turns gray.
These limitations are exactly what makes the game fun and have made it go viral. Everyone is attempting to guess the same word in the least number of attempts.
History of Wordle
Josh Wardle, a software engineer, can be credited with the invention of this fun game. His name is Wardle and he named it ‘Wordle’, do you get it? He invented this game out of affection towards his partner, Palak Shah. Palak loves solving crossword puzzles and other word games.
Wardle introduced the game to his relatives and it became an instant favorite of everyone. This made him realize that he had created an addictive game and decided to introduce it to the world in October 2021.
Wordle has seen a phenomenal rise in the number of players. On 1st November, only ~90 players played the game. Over a period of two months till January 2022, more than a million people had started playing the game.
Wardle did not need an entire engineering team to build this word game. He wanted to come up with an engaging game and one that his partner would love playing.
Wardle had a similar idea in 2013 and had also created a prototype back then, but none of his friends liked it, hence he scrapped the idea.
The idea of restricting users to just one word per day was inspired by ‘Spelling Bee’. It left people wanting more of the game and they look forward to returning the next day. Wardle wanted Wordle to feel like a croissant, a “delightful snack” that is occasionally enjoyed – primarily why there is only one puzzle per day. He did not want the game to lose its charm.
Users could not share the results of their performances until mid-December. Players started sharing their results by tweeting boxes of green, yellow, and black emojis. This forced Wardle to build a way for players to share their results on social media in a spoiler-free way. As a result of this update, players got an option to share their performances at the end of the game.
With everyone sharing their performances over Twitter, he also looked into generating a link at the end of the tweet but he felt it would have looked “trashy”. He thought that the green, yellow, and grey boxes were more aesthetically pleasing.
Wardle’s partner, Palak Shah, played a crucial role in bringing the game to the public. Wardle created a list of all 12,000 five-lettered words in the English language. Looking at the list, he realized that a lot of the words might be obscure. These would have been almost impossible to be guessed by the players.
To narrow down the scope of the words he created another challenge for his partner. She was tasked with going through the 12,00 words and deciding whether people would be able to guess them or not. This activity brought down the total count to ~2,500 words.
Does Wordle Make Money?
Despite the game’s massive success, its inventor has no plans of monetizing it. Wardle aims to keep the game simple and ad-free. Wordle does not ask for money from its users, it has no ads or any flashing banners. The game is very minimalistic.
So—Wordle’s not making any money yet. The game might get ads or it might not, but either way, Josh Wardle created the game just for fun and he plans to keep it that way. There aren’t any fees associated with the game at this time.
The inventor is personally very suspicious of applications that demand data and send push notifications to users. Wordle is taking deliberate steps to do the opposite of that. It does not want much of the user’s attention and just wants one to spend 3 minutes daily.
Additionally, he just wants the game to be a fun platform in the vast world of the internet. He believes he is fortunate enough and in a comfortable position in life. His goal was never to monetize Wordle.
Wardle’s generosity has also rubbed off on other game developers. How? Let me explain.
The thing is, despite its popularity, many people still do not realize that Wordle is not a mobile app. It is a simple website, compatible on desktop and mobile, that is free to play. After it became famous, people started downloading some other application available on the app store named Wordle.
The developer of this five-year-old app, Steven Cravotta, found himself to be the beneficiary of this confusion.
He had developed the app and forgotten about it. He remained oblivious until he checked in on his analytics and saw that his app had gone viral.
His app had suddenly been downloaded over 150,000 times within a short span of time. It became the number 1 app on the app store globally.
You see, this app had been set up to make money through in-app purchases and advertising. Through these many downloads, Cravotta would have easily profited quite a large amount of money. He could have taken the profits home had he wanted.
However, he reached out to Wardle to donate the money to a worthy cause. They decided to donate the amount collected to Boost, which is an after-school tutoring and mentorship program operating out of West Oakland.
However, Wardle can change his mind at any time and try to sell the popular word game to a larger entity. In fact, he did have a change of mind recently and decided to sell the company to New York Times. The price of the acquisition was undisclosed but it was speculated to be in the “low seven figures”.
Wardle can also monetize the game by the way of advertisements or a subscription. Experts believe that advertisements are more beneficial when there is a lot of content. Hence, in the case of Wordle, a subscription model would make sense, if Wardle chooses to monetize it in the future.
But, if NYT chooses to monetize Wordle it would affect the game’s success and might drive users away. After the acquisition, NYT revealed that the game will remain free to play for the time being. However, NYT has a gaming vertical which offers subscriptions starting at $5 per month. If Wordle joins this library of games, players might have to shell out some money to be able to play it.
How Do You Win At Wordle?
Harry Guinness wrote an article for Wired in which he spoke about his detailed analysis on how to beat Wordle.
He used letter frequency analysis to understand which letters occur in words and how often. It is a pretty fundamental part of cryptography. Using this technique, he came up with a list of the most frequently used letters in the English language. In the order of frequency, the list goes like – E, A, R, I, O, T, N, S, L, C, U, and D.
Based on this, he asks the players to identify the best words to start with. Then for the second guess, the users can put in any of the letters that were not used the first time around. If you follow his suggestions, you would have a few letters and could start guessing the actual word.
The best first word for Wordle is SOARE. It scores the top position within a ranked list of more than 12,000 possible five-letter words.
Can You Cheat At Wordle?
It will not be fair to anyone, but it is quite easy to cheat at the game. What you can do is, open the game in private browsing and go wild. Take as many goes as you need to complete it. After this, you can go to your real profile and guess the word in one go.
Voila! You are a Wordle master all of a sudden.
The Copycat Problem
As we discussed, there was already an app named Wordle on the app store. Even though the developer made a profit from this, he was kind enough to donate it. Not everyone is this honest though.
Wordle’s popularity has attracted a lot of copycats. For example, a clone called ‘Wordle — The App’, tried to charge $30 for an annual subscription. In response, Apple removed those games from the app store.
The Word Game Business
Wordle is in a business that can potentially be very lucrative. The amount of revenue that mobile gaming generates is insane. Look at last year’s revenue figures for reference. The industry made $90 billion in revenues! Safe to assume that there’s money in the game.
The word-game market has always been profitable and stable, and the pandemic even boosted its growth. Not everyone can afford to buy a PS5 or an Xbox, but most people have a smartphone, due to this everyone downloads mobile games to pass time.
Word games are especially interesting. Many studies have been conducted on the reaction of the human brain because of these games. These studies found out that word games stimulate both language and logic processing areas of our brain. While playing these games, our brain releases dopamine, which helps us feel pleasure and satisfaction.
Most of the leaders in the mobile gaming space make word games. Zynga owns ‘Words with Friends’, while AppLovin owns ‘Wordscapes’. Ultimately word games are usually bought by one of the larger mobile gaming companies.
Wordle is again unique in this respect. It has been able to achieve organic popularity.
As mentioned earlier, it too has become a part of a bigger company now. It has recently been acquired by the New York Times Company for a “low seven-figure price”, Wordle is definitely on its path to becoming the “it” game of the year.
Another element that separates Wordle from other mobile games is that it has gone viral globally.
There are people developing versions of Wordle in other languages. These versions include Portuguese, German, Urdu, Hungarian and Japanese.
Although Wordle is not very different from the word games available on the app stores, it is unique in many aspects. Most of the games are ruined by continuous annoying ads, Wordle is not. However, this might change with NYT coming into the frame.
It remains to be seen if Wordle will be able to stay true to its values with a mammoth of a business organization behind it now.
Conclusion: How Does Wordle Make Money?
Coming back to our original question, for now, Wordle doesn’t make any money. But chances are that it’s about to change. Wordle has been recently bought by none other than the New York Times and it’ll most likely join its other Wordplay games which are only accessible to their subscribers for $5 per month.
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed our insight into the business model of Wordle and that it was helpful. If you have any questions related to this article or any other matter, feel free to write us an email. And if you enjoyed reading it kindly share it on social media.
We sure had a lot of fun talking about Wordle, didn’t we? The next time you have a few minutes to spare, swing by or sign up and try the game out. We bet you won’t be disappointed!
Thanks again, and see you next time!
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