New York Times gaming chief insists Wordle isn’t at a loss for words – at least not yet


No matter when you search “Wordle” on social media, someone is always in a TIZZY to find out if the insanely popular online word game is trying to take advantage of the millions of players who log in to solve the puzzle and share triumphs. and frustrations with friends each day.

Conspiracy theories have only intensified since Wordle creator Josh Wardle sold the game to the New York Times end of January for an undisclosed seven-figure amount. When it comes to this five-letter word game, many Wordlers regularly turn to the four-letter variety.

Now, New York Times gaming general manager Jonathan Knight is looking to reassure Wordle’s wary fans. “Our goal has been and remains to continue to make the game great,” he told TheWrap. “We see ourselves as stewards of what Josh Wardle has created.”

Testifying to the general level of free-floating Wordle anxiety, earlier this week Wordlers were upset that one game (284 on March 30) apparently had two answers – depending on whether users left the game’s webpage open. on their device or charged. it fresh in a new window. TechCrunch said the incident “chaos!”

“We haven’t changed how Wordle works,” a Times spokesperson told TheWrap. “We removed some obscure words in an effort to make the puzzle more accessible… To ensure the game is in sync with the updated version, Solvers should refresh the website where they play Wordle. So to clarify, the obscure word removal process was causing this with two solutions (Wednesday) – but this can be fixed simply by refreshing the website that the solvers are playing the game.

That explains that dust, but it’s just the latest of many fan spin-offs on Worldle. The Times purchase has started a snark-fest on Twitter that Wordle is practically a replica of the classic “Lingo” game show – so what was the New York Times buying, exactly?

Fans also expressed understandable concern that The Times might add a subscription fee for the currently free game, while others insisted that words had gotten tougher. And hey, ad trackers spoil the fun! Finally, some believe the Times drastically changed the word list, leaving it out of sync with the list created by Wardle, the Brooklyn-based software engineer who designed the game.

To clarify the controversies, TheWrap turned to Knight for more answers as he hopes to bring a voice of reason to the ‘chaos’ that is Wordle fever.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Jonathan Knight (New York Times)

Can you define magic?
You know, it’s the 80th anniversary of crossword puzzles, we don’t think the interest in word games is going away. I think a few things have changed and one of the things that makes Wordle so great is that it’s such a surprisingly social experience for a game that doesn’t have real multiplayer mechanics built in and doesn’t have built-in chat function or anything you might think of as a traditional multiplayer game. Still, it managed to be one of the most social games, one of the biggest social gaming phenomena of the year.

The company’s statement on the 284 game also addresses another popular misconception – with the removal of obscure words, the list actually got easier, not harder, right?
I can say categorically that we are not complicating the puzzle. We went in and deleted a few words that were on the dark side. I can confirm that the word agora…was to happen, and we deleted that word. The word that day was aroma instead of agora. We also keep an eye out for words that we think would be insensitive or potentially offensive, much like we pass judgments on crosswords and Spelling Bee puzzles.

Are there any number of words on this list that you can reveal?
A few years ago of words. I can say that I don’t have a precise figure to give you. But we have a lot of leads and we are thinking about what will come next.

Some have complained that Wordle only clones the classic “Lingo” game show, and there are Wordle clones like Word Master available for free online. If the puzzle existed before, besides Wordle’s list of words, what did the New York Times really buy?
We bought the official Wordle. It’s the IP of course, we bought the game itself, the code, the assets. Despite all the clones and imitations, and although there are obviously plenty of puns to choose from, this is the one that everyone, the the Internet, decided was the one they wanted to play. It’s just really well designed, there’s a bit of drama in the way the letters flip.

Are Wordle’s critics right to complain about ad tracking since The New York Times took over the game?
We don’t do anything that we don’t already do for crossword puzzles, the Spelling Bee, and our other game web pages. It’s true that when we finished the game, we implemented a level of tracking that was very consistent with what we do and far less than the average website. We take privacy very seriously.

Will players eventually have to subscribe and pay to get Wordle?
I hate that my answer to this question always seems suspicious – it’s not at all the intention of pointing out anything harmful, but as a general rule we don’t really make any predictions or promises on this which may come later… What I can say is that we see great value for businesses by introducing [the Wordle] public to our other products.

Since the acquisition, has Wordle attracted subscribers to The New York Times, both gaming and regular newspaper subscriptions?
We don’t have updated numbers to share, but I think last year in the fourth quarter we shared that game subscriptions had exceeded one million, which was a very big step for us. We see real value in Wordle audiences coming to The Times and learning about Spelling Bee and crossword puzzles, which have their own subscription model. Crossword is a subscription only product, Spelling Bee has a free play window up to a certain rank, then if you are a subscriber you get the full experience.

Do you have more addictive games coming up?
We have a game design team, and [a few weeks ago we took] two days as a team to do a Game Jam; it’s basically a mini-hackathon. We take two days to generate new ideas and create prototypes. We did a test prototype late last year called Digits, which was a number-based puzzle that we envision…but [the Game Jam] can’t predict the future, and we don’t have a crystal ball or statement of what might happen.


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