The brains behind Wordle – He developed the game of the hour – and is now a millionaire
Josh Wardle programmed a word puzzle for his wife. It is now played by millions of people worldwide.
It was actually just a pastime for his wife, what Josh Wardle developed during the Corona period. The talk is of Wordle. The game, in which you have to find a word within six rounds. A pastime turned into a business – for Wardle, for the New York Times. Because the latter bought the game from the programmer – for an unspecified seven-figure sum.
What started small has become a global success in a short time. The man behind the game is from Brooklyn. There he developed a game that was actually just for him and his wife to play. And she is obviously thrilled with the game – and with Wardle’s gesture, as she told the New York Times: "That’s really sweet," she said. "This is definitely how Josh shows his love."
Abo Game sensation Hype with five letters
When he shared the game in a family WhatsApp chat, he apparently soon realized: here I have developed something that a lot of people will enjoy. And published the game. The number of people who daily faced the ever-changing conundrum grew rapidly. From 90 in November to a few hundred thousand in early January to several million today. It is – irony of the times – an example of how exponentially fast such an addictive game system spreads.
Simple, well-known game principle
Yet the game principle is extremely simple. In no more than six tries, you have to find the five-letter word you’re looking for. When a letter is guessed correctly in a round, it lights up green. And this is how you can get closer to the target word.
Basically, then, the game principle is the same as in the ancient game Mastermind – simply with words instead of colors. There is exactly one word per day for the whole world to search for, and one’s own genius – or failure – can easily be shared on social media.
Josh Wardle told The New York Times after the purchase that it was incredible to see how much joy the game brought to so many. And spoke of stories brought to him of how his play united families living far from each other.
The buyout by the "New York Times" and Wardle are what you might call a "perfect match," anyway. That’s because the daily crossword puzzle in the newspaper plays an important role in the game’s origin story. In 2020, he and his wife got excited about the puzzles in the paper, "so I wanted to create a game that she would enjoy," he told The New York Times.
Second game for his wife
Wardle has deliberately not developed the game further. "It’s something that encourages you to spend three minutes a day doing it," he said. "And that’s it. It doesn’t want more of your time."
His wife, Palak Shah, was instrumental in more than just the initial development. It was she who helped Wardle narrow down the 12,000 or so five-letter words that came to mind. For many are unfamiliar even to native speakers.
So Wardle programmed a new game in which his wife is supposed to sort out words she doesn’t know. So now there are about 2500 words left to be considered at all. So with a daily puzzle, the game doesn’t run out of possible solutions anytime soon.
Philipp Felber-Eisele is business editor at Tamedia. He reported on economic policy directly from the Federal Berne. The Germanist and historian joined Tamedia as a journalist in 2019.