In just a few months, a simple five-letter puzzle earned its creator a seven-figure sum.
The growth of wordlein which players try to find a mystery word, was fast.
At the beginning of November, the online game was only played by 90 people.
At the start of 2022, that number was 300,000, rising to two million soon after. It reached a level of popularity that made The New York Times value it at over US$1 million ($1.41 million).
Part of the value of the game for the users – and therefore for the publishers of the New York Times – is its simplicity.
It’s quick to play, easy to understand, and offers a few moments of stimulating distraction.
For anyone who hasn’t tried it yet, it involves six chances to find a mysterious five-letter word.
After each guess, the color of the letter squares changes to show how close the guess was to the mystery word.
It is designed to be played only once per day, with the same word for all players, anywhere in the world.
This creates both scarcity and community, meaning users are drawn to a shared sense of accomplishment and don’t feel dependent or waste time.
Many of my students start their day with a quick wordle.
When asked to explain the call, one replied, “It wakes up my brain and it’s way better than going on social media or reading the news.” Another said to me, “It starts my day.”
This mental equivalent of a healthy breakfast has become iconic in a short time.
And marketing is basically what The New York Times made by appropriating wordle of its inventor, Josh Wardle.
The newspaper is not interested in the letters of the game, but in its numbers – using wordlepopularity to increase the size of the NYT’s online audience. This is what digital platforms call “reach”.
wordle is particularly valuable in terms of reach because of the way fans share their successes and failures via social media.
The vital development came in December after a New Zealand player used a grid of colored emoji squares to show her daily progress without giving the answer.
Sharing amplifies the user’s sense of accomplishment, while creating a sense of belonging between wordle community – now a powerful force in maintaining the authenticity of the game – and educating more people about wordlehis existence.
spread the word
Facebook (now Meta) saw the potential to gain a large audience through multi-billion dollar purchases from popular social media platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp.
And a similar thing was done by the New York Times.
Own wordle gives them the opportunity to get millions of people, many of them in their target demographic, to visit their site (which will host the game) every day.
The expectation (the hope) is that a sizeable proportion will decide to become New York Times the subscribers.
Achieving similar reach through traditional paid advertising would cost The New York Times much more than the purchase price of wordle.
The publishers aim to have 10 million subscriptions by 2025, so buying a popular game to help in that quest makes good business sense.
There are also other business opportunities. Although the New York Times said he intended to keep the game free “at first”, they seem to be keeping their options open for future revenue channels.
This is an understandable stance given that the online casual games industry was valued at $93.2 billion ($131.8 billion) in 2021.
wordle, with its short playtime, falls into the fastest growing area known as “hypercasual”, which is usually funded by lucrative advertising deals. In this context, given its popularity, wordle can be considered a strong asset.
Other options for monetizing online games include making people pay to play (premium), operating a basic free version with an upgrade (freemium), or integrating advertising and product sales into the equation.
A decade ago, farmville (the farm-based social simulation game) was the most popular online game.
It used a freemium model to generate revenue worth hundreds of millions of dollars, with the largest coming from the sale of digital products – paid add-ons for the game itself.
This made sense for a game designed to be played several times a day, but for wordle‘s short-lived format, there seems to be little room for digital products.
Physical products might be an option, like a board game, or maybe merchandise, but there are only a limited number wordle mugs that can be sold. Creating a premium version is also tricky with such a simple and accessible format.
That would mean creating a paid app and convincing gamers to download it, which could lose a lot of users along the way.
In-game advertising is another less drastic option, but this might prove difficult to implement without the ads getting in the way of the currently clean user experience, again a key part of simplicity and usability. general appeal of the game.
The most obvious revenue provider would be to put the game inside The New York Times paywall, currently priced at US$25 ($35) per quarter for digital only, and hopes they can attract many users.
However, each of these options is difficult.
As is the case with many online games, wordle has a loyal and active user base who expect it to stay fast, simple, and free.
There is a considerable risk that attempts to monetize wordle beyond its ability to attract attention The New York Times could simply alienate users and drive them elsewhere.
Mark Brill, Lecturer in Future Media and Creativity, Birmingham City University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.