Why Wordle Is (And) Isn’t Worth The Post-Virus Game
The popularity of the Wordle application has in crater since The New York Times (NYT) acquired the app, but the latter is only one possible reason for the former’s downfall.
Wordle’s plunge from late January highs fell nearly 1,000% in July. An average of 350,000 users posting game results on Twitter in the first month of the year. These tweets barely exceeded 40,000 messages in July. Gambling function, mismanagement, seasonal changes, counterfeit apps, paywall rumors, and the essential nature of the phrase “gone viral” are all downside factors. Despite the fall, the acquisition of Wordle in January was a success for the NYT. According to the first trimester earningsapp game subscriptions are driving the media giant’s growth.
“While we saw a real momentum in the news, that wasn’t the only driver…Wordle brought tens of millions of unprecedented new users to The Times, many of whom stayed to play other games, which led to our best quarter for net subscriber additions at Games,” President and CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said in the report.
There are still plenty of people who haven’t jumped on the Wordle bandwagon yet. That’s why we’re here today – to explore whether Josh Wardle’s creation is worth the post-viral time and distraction.
Before diving, let’s describe what’s in the water. People can Wordle on the NYT webpage or download the iOS or Android apps. Wordle asks players to guess a five-letter word from up to six guesses. It’s a simple but hectic daily challenge that can cause players to lose their marbles if they don’t complete it.
I will become the joker
Wordle 388 X/6
— Erik Malinowski (@erikmal) July 12, 2022
Every day there is a new puzzle – a chance to continue the winning streaks. As each player plays the same puzzle day to day, the challenge becomes social, hence the preponderance of posting memes, broken footage, related museum pieces and Dog Wordle (hint: the word is “TREAT”).
Created by Reddit software engineer Josh Wardle, the game is completely free to play and was previously free of ads and in-app purchases. That changed with the Times. Now, ads appear after almost every click on the app.
To start a Wordle contest, enter any five-letter word – mount, rider, number, frogs, etc. Letters that are not in the word are highlighted in gray (and are then grayed out on keyboards). Letters that users have found but are in the wrong place appear in yellow. And the correct letters with correct locations materialize in green.
If my dog played Wordle pic.twitter.com/lBGJl5Q07M
—Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) July 7, 2022
There are a number of strategies to employ when rearranging and forming new guesses. Using as many running letters as possible, especially vowels, is a good start. A word without the letter “A”, for example, eliminates a certain number of combinations. For a deeper dive into letter selection, the good folks at Art of Problem Solving provide a few useful tips.
The site found that more than 15% of everyday words start with an S, and C, B, T, P, and A. These are also the only other starting letters that appear in more than 5% of correct words. These seed letters line up with the general five-letter words. Likewise, vowels dominate the vowels of the second and third letters. A, O, R, E, I, L, U and H appear in over 5% of Wordle words as the second letter. There is a steep drop after that.
Another sneaky ploy is to skip the correct letters on the second attempt. Let’s say “STORE” is a first guess, and it turns out that S and R are in play with T, O and E out. The next attempt could be “BLINK”, which introduces more possible letters to link with S and R.
Once people have attempted the puzzle of the day, they are invited to share their Wordle journey. The tweet looks like this…
Wordle 389 4/6
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 no yolks today@SaraEMole
— Steph Hughes (@NclSteph) July 12, 2022
There’s a pop-up ad before the results are returned, and there’s another one for additional rewards after the end. There are also advertisements before Wordle add-on games open. Once Word Fever and Secret Word finally appear (post-announcement), the action is entertaining enough for people with literary leanings.
Word Fever asks operators to create three-, four-, and five-letter words from a random set of four, five, and six letters. If the word is acceptable, players score a point and move on to the next word. The game continues until the timer runs out before a word is spoken.
Secret Word is a little less concrete and requires more critical thinking. Competitors must again form a word from a jumble, but the word must be a synonym or object of a previous word. Think “SKY”, then “SUN”, “HOT” (another advertisement), “COOK”, “BURGER”, “MEAT”, etc. It’s not an exact science, but it could certainly promote plastic brain growth.
These practice rounds also hone Wordle’s core gameplay strengths.
Wordle is a fun app, and it’s easy to understand the engaging and competitive nature of the game. Wordle also has a fairly limited function, with the daily challenge providing most of the action. It becomes an annoyance or a chore because there aren’t many other options or directions in the app. And the ads, my God, the ads. A 30-second ad that appears after almost every click is enough to scare away even the most hardened gamer.
While it’s still unclear if Wordle can maintain its current level of popularity, the game has certainly left its mark on mobile gaming culture and provided a roadmap to success for other apps.