Will Wordle Go Behind a Paywall?

Ava Kobos

The New York Times recently bought Wordle. This isn’t necessarily a good thing.

As we all know, The New York Times recently acquired Wordle. Although the game remains free for the time being, there have been speculations that it eventually may go behind a paywall, limiting players’ access. 

Wordle was created by developer Josh Wardle, and was launched in October of 2021. In order to win, or to get the Wordle, the player must successfully identify a five letter word within six tries. Within weeks, the game quickly grew in popularity, soon catching the eye of The New York Times. The newspaper has a robust game section that’s mostly free to pay, and includes games such as Spelling Bee, a game where the player is tasked with creating as many words as possible with a given set of seven letters, Tiles, a matching game where the player must clear tiles off of a grid, and of course, the daily Crossword. The newspaper prides themselves on producing thought-provoking, fun games, and given its widespread popularity and how perfectly it fit the newspaper’s criteria, Wordle was a perfect candidate for The New York Times to add to their spread. 

The newspaper purchased the game in January, stating that the purchase was in “the low seven figures.” For Wardle, the offer was likely a no-brainer. He has received recognition for his game, wild success, and compensation. For The New York Times, the purchase was somewhat of a desperate move, a rush to acquire Wordle and put it under their name. Now the game’s official title is Wordle – The New York Times, and subtle changes have occured to the site. The Wordle at the top of the screen is now in the font of The New York Times, and the url now falls under nytimes.com. Additionally, some users first lost their stats after some changes were made to the site, but the issue was fixed within a few hours.

This acquisition of the game isn’t necessarily a bad thing, yet, as it remains free for all players and preserved the characteristics of the game. However, The New York Times wrote that Wordle will “initially remain free to new and existing players,” implying that it may go behind a paywall later on. Fans have also been speculating about this possibility. “Josh I love you (and Wordle) so much but we all know that the new york times is going to destroy everything that made your game pure and great (free of adverts, paywalls, signins, tracking, etc.),” wrote one Twitter user. Another tweeted a rebuttal, stating that “[The New York Times] can’t stay good by making the paper free… How about you congratulate Josh and extend a little faith?”

Additionally, even users with a New York Times subscription have to purchase another one to play their games. The game subscription costs $1.25 per week, or $40 per year. As many of these games are unique to The New York Times, this paywall isn’t normally much of an issue, but putting Wordle behind it decreases the game’s accessibility. Wasn’t that the whole point all along: to have an easily accessible, high-quality game we could all play together? 

Ideally, this possibility will only remain as a speculation. When the newspaper first bought the game, Wardle wrote on his Twitter that “when the game moves to the NYT site, it will be free to play for everyone.” The game does have enough fans that, if it does go behind a paywall, there will be a major online response. But until anything changes, keep calm and Wordle on.