Buying the hit puzzle game Wordle was apparently a good bit of business for The New York Times. The company announced its quarterly earnings on Wednesday and credited Wordle for a huge jump in new subscribers. “Wordle brought an unprecedented tens of millions of new users to The Times,” Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said in an earnings release, “many of whom stayed to play other games” and drove the company’s best gaming-related quarter ever.
The Times acquired Wordle from creator Josh Wardle back in January, and said it paid “an undisclosed price in the low seven figures” to do so. Now it’s in the Times’ collection of games, which also includes two daily crosswords, Spelling Bee, Sudoku, Vertex, Letter Boxed, and Tiles. (By the way, if you’re a word game fan and have never tried Letter Boxed, it’s a good one.) They all come with an overall subscription to the Times, or as a separate $5 monthly subscription.
So far, the Times hasn’t changed Wordle much except to give it a new URL and briefly screw up everyone’s stats. (No, it didn’t make the game harder.) But it has begun to add a few nudges around the app to go play some of the company’s other games … and maybe subscribe, won’t you? It’s apparently working: Overall, the Times said it added 387,000 net digital-only subscribers last quarter, though it didn’t say how many of those are Wordle players. The Times also offers a dedicated subscription to its cooking content, and an overall digital package.
Wordle’s virality seems to have waned a bit in recent months, as fewer users are sharing their daily scores in group chats and on social media. But that clearly doesn’t mean people stopped playing. (I got Wednesday’s Wordle in two guesses, by the way. Please clap.) And for all the many, many Wordle spinoffs out there, this is surely a good sign. Maybe Spotify will snap up Heardle to juice subscriber numbers, and maybe Framed is the solution to everything that ails Netflix. Worldle could definitely be a feature of Google Maps.
The Times has intimated in the past that it might eventually make Wordle a subscriber-only game, but didn’t say anything about its plans on its earnings call. And if the game continues to bring that many people into its ecosystem, the Times might just decide it’s better outside the paywall.