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Wardell Magic; How did the simple online game win the multi-million dollar New York Times contract?

Josh WardellBrooklyn-based software engineer with a degree in media arts from the University of London knew that his partner loved word-guessing games; So he designed a very simple game for himself and named it Wordle, which was a clever combination of his last name and the word Word.

The couple had been playing Wordwell for several months before its place He shared it with their family group on WhatsApp so that family members could share the experience of this simple game with them. When Josh saw that his simple game was on the minds of all his relatives, he decided to publish it on the Internet; Hoping that others will enjoy the WordPress experience as much as their friends and acquaintances.

Wardell’s beginning was a “love story.”

Josh launched the Wardell website in October last year, and by November 1, it had only 90 users. Two months later, 300,000 people were playing the game. Two days ago, the New York Times announced that it had bought Wardell on a seven-digit deal (possibly between $ 1 million and $ 5 million). According to Similarweb, the number of visitors to the WordDel website has now reached 45 million. This story is a simple game of guessing words that started humbly as a “love story” and is now worth millions of dollars and millions of fans.

What exactly is Wordel?

Wordle Wordle

WordPress is a daily word guessing game that you can try on this website. WordPress is simple and fun, and like a crossword puzzle, you can only do it once. Every 24 hours a new word is posted on the website and all you have to do is guess what that word is.

WordDel gives each user six times the chance to guess the five-letter word that was randomly selected. If the letter is in the correct place, it will be displayed in green. The correct letter in the wrong place is highlighted in yellow, and the letter that does not exist in the word at all turns gray. This means that you have to put this word aside in the next conjectures.

In this game, you have the opportunity to guess five times wrong and find the word with the letters that are green and yellow. If you are lucky or have the mind to guess English words, you can get the right answer with three, two or even one try.

WordPress is a simple game; But it’s fascinating, and according to the New York Times, millions of people are playing the game every day. WordPress is web-based and completely free and ad-free, and at least before selling it to the New York Times, it had nothing to do with user data.

A group of programmers were not involved in building WordWell; Rather, this game is the product of creativity Josh Wardell And his partner, پالاک‌شا At the height of the Corona epidemic and homelessness, they were looking for a way to entertain themselves. Earlier, in 2013, Wardell had designed a similar example of this game; But his friends did not welcome it and he was discouraged from continuing the project. By 2020, he and Palakshaw were settling on the New York Times’ “Spelling Bee” table and game, and Josh was thinking of designing a word-guessing game to entertain himself and his friend.

The reason for Wordwell’s success was to limit users to playing one game a day

According to Josh, the main reason for Wordwell’s success was to limit users to playing one game a day. In this way, a sense of scarcity was created to bring them back to the website. Josh came up with the idea for a somewhat uninspired spelling game in which users had to put together the letters at their disposal every day to make meaningful words with them.

Since Wardell was initially just a personal game, it did not go for any of the features designed in online games to attract more users and revenue. While other games regularly send notifications to their phones to get the user back to the game, WordDel has never sought to gain user loyalty. Josh Wardell says:

Wordell only encourages you to spend three minutes of your day playing this game, that’s all. It will not take you more time.

The WordWeb web-based game was unavailable until mid-December. Josh found that users themselves shared the outcome of the game by typing green, yellow, and black square emojis; For this reason, it decided to add an automated tool to the game so that users could use it to boast about their luck and skill in guessing words, without revealing the answer to the game.

Wordle Wordle

My pride and that of a colleague at Zomit in WordDel!

If Josh really wanted to increase the number of his users as much as possible, he could add a link to his website at the bottom of each tweet that created the WordDel sharing tool; But when he looked at it well, he saw that doing so would lower the “class” of his game, and it did not look good. At the same time, the mysterious atmosphere of these colored squares aroused more attention and curiosity of other users.

Palakshah was also instrumental in preparing the game for public release. He had a list of 12,000 five-letter words in English, many of which were vague and almost impossible to guess. From this long list, he chose 2,500 words that were familiar to him and that would be enough to keep him playing for a few years.

A list of these words is also available in the game source code on a daily basis without any encryption. This prompted the Twitter bot @ Wordlinator, which introduced itself as “the messenger of the future to end the pride of WordDel users”, to automatically reveal the answer to the next day’s riddle in response to tweets resulting from users’ games.

Twitter recently disabled the bot’s account for “violating Twitter rules for sending automatic and unsolicited messages.” In another move, Apple has removed apps from the App Store that mimicked WordPress. Meanwhile, the iPhone game Wordle, which of course has nothing to do with WordPress and is older, has reached millions of downloads due to WordPress popularity and because users confuse it with web-based WordPress. Interestingly, the developer of this application, after increasing the download, called Wardel and asked what to do with the money he received from in-app purchases. Both eventually decided to donate it to a charity for children’s education.

Why is simple word guessing so popular?

You may have been wondering what the fascination of the simple word-guessing game is that it made such a fuss, and the New York Times bought it on a 7-digit deal. It should be noted that WordDell, while simple, has several important features that together have managed to attract the attention of millions of people around the world.

First, these days, few products can be found on the Internet that, while popular, are free and extremely minimal, and are completely honest with their users. This game was born as a personal project whose users were not supposed to go beyond friends and acquaintances. For this reason, this website does not contain any annoying advertisements or flashy banners or pop-ups and requests for financial assistance; It’s just a game on a white background. In addition, you do not need to register to play, and the website stores the result of each user’s games based on IP.

The second interesting feature of Wardell is that you can only guess one word every day. In this way, a sense of urgency and risk is created that increases the excitement of the game. Only once a day do you have the opportunity to guess the right word. If you miss all six guesses, you will have to wait a day for the next word to come to you.

The popularity of Wordle Wordle

The third feature that makes this simple game popular is that the word you have to guess every day is the same for all users. This feature is very important; Because you can more easily talk about the puzzle of the day with your friends. For example, “The word today was very difficult!”, “How did you get the answer?” Or “I managed to find the answer with three guesses; what about you?”.

This brings us to the fourth feature, which has probably been the most important factor in Wardell’s popularity. In WordDel you can easily share the result of the game on messengers and social networks, without revealing the answer to the riddle. In fact, Wardell’s name came to the fore a little after the New York Times mentioned it in November; But it gained momentum when the ability to share was added.

Once you have used all six deadlines and the game is over, you can post the result, which is a combination of colored square emojis, on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or even Telegram and other messengers, without disclosing the answer. In fact, Wardell is one of the few games that shares the player’s entire performance and shows others how to get the right answer.

Using these techniques, Josh Wardell created a product from a few simple lines of code that has attracted the attention of the New York Times and millions of users around the world. Word is not just a word-guessing game; Rather, it is a way to open the conversation and an opportunity to show off on social media, and it is because of these features that it has become so popular.

What will be Wardell’s fate after joining the New York Times?

January was a strange month for the gaming industry. Sony recently announced plans to buy Bungee Studios, creator of the Hilo and Dastini gaming suite, for $ 3.6 billion. Tikoto Interactive also went to Zinga Studios with a $ 12.7 billion contract, which was considered the most expensive purchase contract in the gaming industry at the time. Meanwhile, just one week later, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Activision Blizzard with a contract worth an incredible $ 68.7 billion, bringing the value of all three acquisitions to an astronomical $ 85 billion in January.

In such a competitive environment, reminiscent of the console war of the 1990s, WordPress multimillion-dollar sales may not seem so significant; But it’s a big step for the New York Times to increase its online subscribers to 10 million by 2025. Also, the sale of this game, which is already free and has millions of users, to the media that has subscribed to its articles, has worried some fans of this game.

Jonathan KnightNew York Times’s director general of games, describes Wardell as “lightning in a bottle” and emphasizes addressing these concerns:

The game will be free for new and old users once WordPort is transferred to the New York Times platform, and there are currently no plans to change the gameplay.

As it turns out, WordDell will remain free at first until the New York Times changes the structure of the game or forces users to sign up and buy a subscription to play the game. Many other New York Times games, including Sudoku and SplingBay, and small versions of the crossword puzzle can be played for free without the need to register and log in; But to access the full version of the tables and their archives, you need to pay a subscription fee.

Now there is a concern that if users are forced to register and share their data for the game or add cookies to the game, some of its appeal will be lost (among us, since WordDel is web-based, you can save it as a web page). Offline, play it for free forever!)

The creator of WordDel stated that his decision to sell the game was not for financial reasons, but for the difficulty of managing it, which now had millions of users. He also said he would work with the New York Times to transfer the record of old users’ games to the new platform.


Wardell’s success story is a strange one. When designing this game, Josh Wardell deliberately decided to leave out all the features and capabilities that might have helped make it popular and pervasive; Because the purpose of creating this game was a way to entertain himself and his partner. Nevertheless, it was now the very factor that set Wardell apart from millions of viral games with millions of users that made him so popular and successful.

Josh said in a post on Reddit that he intended his game to feel like eating a croissant; Delicious food that is used only on special occasions. For this reason, guessing Word words is limited to one word a day. He says if you use too much what you like, it loses its charm.

His words seem logical. If you have a creative idea and you hope to achieve such success one day, maybe it’s not bad to think of Wardell’s advice and maybe even fall in love!


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