Wordle, the popular wordplay game created by Josh Wardle, has gathered millions of daily players. Now, playing Wordle may require a subscription following the purchase of the game by The New York Times (NYT).
The seven-figure NYT payout for Wordle highlights the value of profit over universal fun and is an unfortunate reminder that the capitalistic hunt for profits will always win.
The online game is simple, players have six attempts to guess the five-letter word of the day. With each attempt, yellow and green boxes give hints to players as to which letters they have guessed correctly.
The beauty of Wordle is the community effort to keep the word of the day secret for all those who have not yet attempted the puzzle.
When players share their success, often on Twitter, they can upload a censored diagram which shows how many guesses it took them to beat the daily puzzle. It allows all people to share their success without a need to ruin the experience for others.
But now, it’s speculated that the universal interest in Wordle may be obstructed by a paywall. Access to other digital games on the NYT requires a subscription, and this reveals a problem for the future of Wordle.
Wordle may follow the fate of other NYT games like “The Crossword” and “Spelling Bee.” Following the initial paywall in 2011, the NYT has added a subscription for games — $40 a year. Through monetization, Wordle may lose its appeal.
Both Wardle and the NYT have acknowledged questions about paying for the game.
On Jan. 31, the New York Times Company only committed to free access “at the time [Wordle] moves to The New York Times.” Wardle made a similar announcement the same day.
Wardle can’t be blamed for taking a multimillion-dollar deal for a game he originally created just for his partner, according to the NYT. Nevertheless, Wordle’s audience will feel the effects of a change in accessibility to the beloved game.
Through popularity comes profits, and Wordle is no different. The NYT will undoubtedly monetize its newest purchase. The effects of capitalism are expected, but they are still painful.
When the NYT eventually masks Wordle behind its paywall, the most appropriate word of the day will undoubtedly be “M-O-N-E-Y.”