In three months, Wordle went from a personal gift to a viral sensation – and now everyone wants to get involved.
The buzz can be attributed to the spoiler-free scoring grid of green, yellow, black and white blocks that allows players to share their Wordle winnings via social media, group chats and more. To play the game, players guess a predetermined five-letter word in just six attempts, similar to the process in “Lingo,” a popular game show from the late 1980s. The yellow and green squares indicate that Wordle players have guessed a correct letter or a combined correct letter and correct placement for that letter.
Josh Wardle, a software engineer, initially created the game as a gift for his partner. It was released to the public in October and it exploded in popularity in a matter of months. According to Wardle, 90 people played the game on November 1. Almost two months later, 300,000 people played it.
Wordle grew in popularity mainly through Twitter. From November 1 by January 13, about 1.3 million tweets on Wordle have flooded Twitter, according to Siobhan Murphy, the platform’s communications leader. So far, the talk on Twitter about Wordle has seen a daily average growth of 26 percent this year, Ms. Murphy said.
Wordle is free for players and has no ads, creating the ideal user experience. The success of nearly every product this popular is often followed by copycats, waddling behind in an attempt to capitalize on the buzz. Alternatives to Wordle appeared just days after the original game went viral. Some impersonators wanted to give players more guesses for a single word or multiple word rounds in a single day, while others just existed in the name of fun and, well, games.
For example, Letterle gives 26 attempts to guess the letter of the day. Queerdle, which calls itself the “yassification of Wordle”, remixes Wordle and includes a few “very NSFWWords. Absurd offers unlimited guesses, but gets harder and harder with each word solvers enter.
However, the most notable impersonator was aptly named Wordle and was offered as an app, as opposed to the original version of the game, which is a web page. The app’s creator, Zach Shakked, offered players a free trial of the same game with additional options for shorter and longer words. The app also offered a $30 unlimited Pro version. Apple pulled the game — and other copycats — from the App Store shortly after Mr. Shake tweeted about monetization his version.
For fans, Wordle’s obsession is a content goldmine. In fact, Twitter users have most likely spent just as much time turning their colorful grids into viral memes, paintings, cartoons and comics if they have to play the game. The game has even caught the attention of celebrities, including Jimmy Fallon, host of The Tonight Show and the ‘Succession’ actress J. Smith-Cameron.
In one meme, John Cusack doesn’t hold a boombox but a Wordle grid above his head. “Say something…”? More like, “Suppose you share your Wordle score.”
Also brands are tweeting about the trendy game. Lego made its own green and yellow grid of bricks, and the Smithsonian tweeted a photo of a green, yellow, and black tablecloth from the Cooper Hewitt collection.
Twitter users are also comparing Wordle’s craze to its obsession with Farmville, a series of farming simulation games released in 2009. Created and published by Zynga, the game practically took over Facebook, with users engaging with their virtual crops and urging their Facebook friends for help. Like Wordle, Farmville was an internet sensation that burned brightly, bringing in a whopping 32 million daily active users in its heyday.
“There’s pretty much no way to predict fads like this,” said Will Shortz, the New York Times Crossword editor. “They take off for no apparent reason and then die while people start doing other things,” he added.
But Wordle has many advantages. “The great thing about Wordle is how simple, pleasant and attractive the computer interface is,” said Mr. shortz. Limiting players to six guesses a day and rationing one puzzle a day adds excitement to the solving process, he said. “It’s a great puzzle and doesn’t take long to play, making it perfect for our age where people have short attention spans.”