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

Wordle fever is spreading rapidly. But what is behind this sudden boom?

The daily online word game, no account, playable on Apple AAPL,
and AndroidGOOGL,
+ 1.21%

phones, tablets or desktop computers, is causing a stir. On social networks, countless players share their results. Copy games are also becoming popular.

Wordle creator Josh Wardle has even been featured in The New York Times. (But did not respond to an interview request from MarketWatch.)

At bottom, 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 feedback 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 turns green.

Those who solve the puzzle are encouraged to share their results (without sharing the correct word itself). Hence the posts on Facebook and Twitter that say “Wordle in 4” or “Wordle in 5” (i.e. 4 or 5 tries), plus occasional additional comments.

In a sense, Wordle succeeds in part for the same key 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 simple 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. gambling and behavioral addiction.

Wordle’s social component, such as in the sharing of results, is also key 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 skyrockets. snow.

In a nutshell (or two), Wordle has “social currency,” says Brandon Gains, vice president of marketing for MonetizeMore, a company that works with web and app publishers. (Gains also wrote about 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 – so much so that Mark Griffiths almost calls it “anti-game” in its aesthetic and approach. But some think that might be part of its appeal.

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

“I think scarcity 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 please his pun-loving partner, without caring about flashy graphics or, for that matter, without any sort of business strategy.

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

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

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

‘Yes [Wardle] wants to turn [Wordle] in a business, it seems he can.

– Brandon earns to monetizeMore

The daily limit seems to work in favor of Wordle. Jennifer Baum, a New York publicist and fan of the game, calls it the “Beanie Baby Effect,” referring to the stuffed souvenirs that exploded in popularity at one point because they became hard to obtain.

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

It’s hard to say whether Wordle will continue to grow in popularity. Like any other trending cultural phenomenon, a game can have its moment, but the moment passes quickly, say those who follow the gaming industry.

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

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

Continue reading: This National Spelling Bee competitor is also a basketball prodigy who was in a commercial with Stephen Curry

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