The New York Times Buys Wordle
The sudden hit Wordle, in which once a day players get six chances to guess a five-letter word, has been acquired by The New York Times Company.
The purchase, announced by The Times on Monday, reflects the growing importance of games, like crosswords and Spelling Bee, in the company’s quest to grow digital subscriptions to 10 million by 2025.
Wordle was purchased from its creator, Josh Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn, for a price “in the low seven figures,” The Times said. The company said the game would initially remain free to new and existing players.
Wordle — the name is a cheeky pun on its creator’s name — has had a striking rise. It first appeared on a no-frills, ad-free website in October, and had 90 users on Nov. 1. That number grew to 300,000 by the middle of this month, and now millions play the game daily, according to the Times announcement.
A feature enables users to share their performance, with rows of five bricks indicating how many letters in each of their guesses did not appear in the correct word, did appear in it or appeared in it in the exact guessed location. These analog brick layouts have been endlessly memed and have driven millions of tweets.
“The Times remains focused on becoming the essential subscription for every English-speaking person seeking to understand and engage with the world,” a company statement said. “New York Times Games are a key part of that strategy.”
Since The Times put up a paywall in 2011, its business strategy has revolved around persuading readers and users, the overwhelming majority of whom get Times content digitally, to buy subscriptions. The traditional newspaper business model is centered on advertising.
The Times sells subscriptions for its print newspaper and core digital news app, and, for lower prices, to a games app (Games), a recipe app (Cooking) and, as of last year, The Wirecutter, a product-recommendation site it bought in 2016. This month, The Times spent $550 million to purchase the sports news website The Athletic, hailing the 1.2 million subscribers the site brings with it.
The business strategy has been vindicated to the tune of millions of new subscribers. In November, The Times said in an earnings report that it had nearly 8.4 million subscribers. (Its next earning report is scheduled to be released Wednesday.) In December, The Times reported that Games and Cooking each had more than one million subscribers.
The Times’s games — along with the crossword and Spelling Bee, they include Letter Boxed, Tiles and Vertex — were played more than 500 million times last year, the company said.
Mr. Wardle, the game’s creator, told a Times reporter this month that he started Wordle after he and his partner “got really into” The Times’s crosswords and Spelling Bee games during the pandemic.
“New York Times Games play a big part in its origins,” Mr. Wardle said in the company’s statement, “and so this step feels very natural to me.”