The smash online word game Wordle has been bought by The New York Times, which will integrate the daily word puzzle into The New York Times Games suite of word games, creator Josh Wardle announced today.
Wordle will “initially remain free to new and existing players” once it moves over to the Times’ site, and Wardle says that he’s working with The New York Times to preserve players’ existing wins and streak data once the game heads to its new home. That said, The New York Times’ announcement leaves plenty of room for the company to decide to put Wordle behind its paywall in the future.
In his announcement of the sale — for a price that The New York Times’ announcement reports is “an undisclosed price in the low seven figures” — Wardle explains that running the hugely popular game has “been a little overwhelming,” especially considering that he’s the only person who actually handles running the entire game.
“We could not be more thrilled to become the new home and proud stewards of this magical game, and are honored to help bring Josh Wardle’s cherished creation to more solvers in the months ahead,” said Jonathan Knight, general manager for The New York Times Games, in the Times’ announcement of the acquisition. When it moves over to The New York Times, Wordle will join a lineup of other popular daily puzzles, including The New York Times Crossword, the Mini crossword, Spelling Bee, Letter Boxed, Tiles, and Vertex.
As an earlier New York Times profile details, Wordle was originally created by Wardle as a gift for his partner, Palak Shah, after the two of them got hooked on word games (like the Times’ Spelling Bee and crosswords) during the pandemic. It was publicly released in late 2020, but has since exploded in popularity, thanks in part to the viral, emoji-based messages that allow players to share how they did on the daily puzzle without spoiling it for others.
While Wardle kept Wordle as an intentionally free, web-based experience, the app was quickly copied by multiple clones that sought to capitalize on the game’s popularity with knockoff iPhone apps. Apple quickly banned those apps from the App Store following reports that put a spotlight on the clones, although Wordle’s skyrocketing success has also helped lift up older, unrelated word games (like the similarly named Wordle!), too.