Players Quit 'Wordle' After Times's Million-Dollar Purchase of Game

New York Times
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February 15, 2022

Player engagement with Wordle has plummeted since the New York Times bought the popular word game for more than a million dollars earlier this year.

The game, in which a player has six chances to guess a five-letter word, quickly became an internet sensation after it was launched late last year, and it attracts millions of users daily. The Times acquired the app from software engineer Josh Wardle on Jan. 31, and in just two weeks, the app’s engagement levels have dropped 25 percent, according to a LikeFolio analysis. The game's "consumer happiness" also dropped 16 points since it was acquired. Many users speculated that the Times changed Wordle's gameplay after the purchase, but the company released a statement in January ensuring that the game itself would stay the same.

But the Times did alter the game’s dictionary, removing words such as "whore" and "pussy" from the list of possible guesses. The Times also cut culturally sensitive words, such as "slave," "lynch," and "wench," in an effort to "remove obscure words to keep the puzzle accessible to more people, as well as insensitive or offensive words," according to Times spokesman Jordan Cohen. If a user attempts to play a banned word, a "not in word list" notification forces them to guess again. Recently, competitors have launched knockoff games like Lewdle and Sweardle that keep Wordle’s original puzzle model but encourage users to guess more risqué words.

Although Wordle initially captured national attention, corporate ownership of the game appears to have deterred users. "I haven’t noticed any change in game, but not as fun knowing the Times bought it and will eventually put behind paywalls," one user tweeted. "Party’s over."

Published under: New York Times