The New York Times makes a non-puzzling move by buying Wordle

February 1, 2022, 12:24 AM UTC

The New York Times is pushing further into digital games by buying the blockbuster Wordle puzzle game.

The news company said Monday that it would pay low-seven figures” for the acquisition.

Wordle creator Josh Wardle acknowledged the deal via Twitter, saying that the “game has gotten bigger than I ever imagined (which I suppose isn’t that much of a feat given I made the game for an audience of 1).”

The Times said that Wordle has gained millions of daily players since debuting in October 2021, underscoring the game’s exploding popularity. Wardle acknowledged on Twitter that he’d be “lying if I said this hasn’t been a little overwhelming.”

The New York Times has been steadily building a portfolio of online games, some of which, like Spelling Bee and Tiles, can only be accessed via a gaming-specific subscription that is separate from the company’s core newspaper and online news subscriptions. Although the Times’ popular daily crossword puzzle is free, users must subscribe to a gaming service to access additional crossword puzzles. 

As of December, the Times said that it had 1 million game subscribers. 

Wordle will remain free, and “no changes will be made to its gameplay,” the company said, implying that at least for the time being, the game won’t be put behind a paywall. It didn’t say whether access to older Wordle puzzles will be put behind a paywall, similar to how readers access older crossword puzzles.

By buying Wordle, the Times gains a red-hot word puzzle game whose users regularly promote it when they share their scores on Twitter.

The acquisition underscores the extent to which the New York Times believes that it needs compelling content other than news to entice more subscribers. In its most recent quarter, the company’s revenue jumped 19% year over year to $509.1 million, with $342.6 million coming from subscriptions, including the core news service, games, cooking, the Audm audio app, and the Wirecutter gadget review site. 

Both Audm and Wirecutter were originally independent companies before being acquired by the Times. 

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