Wordle is so popular all over the world?


A few months ago, I didn’t expect that the sudden release of “Wordle” would become such a hit around the world. A few months later, I didn’t expect that “Wordle” would remain popular until its 300th day. It was so strong that it was unreasonable.

Before it happened, few people on the planet could have predicted in advance: “Wordle”, an astonishingly simple English word puzzle game, would define the entire spring of 2022.

In January this year, in less than 10 days, the number of users of “Wordle” rapidly increased from 300,000 to 2 million, and the spread has been out of control since then. Morning Consult, a company that tracked the game at that time, announced after a survey that 14% of American adults were playing this game, and “Wordle” was becoming the new favorite of Millennials.

Image source Morning Consult
Image source Morning Consult

In April, when Twitter Gaming released a review of the first quarter of 2022, it was found that “Wordle” had ranked second among the “Top Ten Most Topic Games”. If you put aside this anomaly, the list will be dominated by masterpieces from major companies such as “Genshin Impact”, “Final Fantasy”, and “Elden Ring”, and their team sizes are all a hundred or even a thousand times that of “Wordle”.

Surrounded by numerous mobile games and PC games, “Wordle” opened with a browser seems so out of place. Every curious glance directed at it makes this popular myth appear even more dazzling. Today’s “Wordle” has a dreamy quality decorate with millions of dollars, and it also comes with a successful narrative that even outsiders can’t help but stop and be intoxicate with.

Developer of “Wordle”

The developer of “Wordle” is name Josh Wardle. On the day he named the game after his last name, Wardle had no idea what an extraordinary fate Wordle would usher in.

The GDC (Game Developers Conference) in the spring of 2022 will be the first time this event returns to the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco since the outbreak. Under the California sunshine, more than 10,000 attendees came to this land of inspiration.

Considering the big shock brought by “Wordle”, many people are looking forward to Wardle’s sharing session. However, when a group of professionals in the industry turned their eager eyes to him, the father of word puzzle games with millions of players said: “I don’t consider myself a game developer at all. I want to admit it first. a little.”

Waddell doesn’t think a single speech can explain the creation of a game. If he had to sum it up, he would say that he just did a series of “things you shouldn’t do according to the rules,” and “Wordle” was born.

Wordle’s rules are as straightforward as its interface. Players have 6 chances to enter a 5-letter word, narrow down the range based on each judgment, and finally guess the answer.


Black means the letter is not in the answer, yellow means the position is wrong, and green means the position is correct.

Strange thing

The strange thing about this game is that players can’t infinitely progress through the levels like usual. Every day, players all over the world can only face the same question at the same time. After completing it, they have to wait for the next day to refresh.

Compared with large-scale online games that want people to play online day and night, “Wordle” can occupy users’ time for at most five minutes. If you are lucky, maybe two minutes is enough.

So far, the introduction to “Wordle” itself is over. You can imagine how simple and light it is. On November 1, 2021, the number of single-day users of this game was 90 – to be honest, for a super mini game for family members to kill time, this kind of popularity is not bad.

But the development of the story soon exceeded everyone’s expectations. In just two months, the number of players of “Wordle” soared from 90 to 300,000. By mid-January 2022, the number of users was approaching 3 million like a rocket.

What’s even more exaggerated is that there is an old game with the same name in the US App Store called “Wordle!”. On December 22, 2021, it was still outside the 400 free word puzzle games list. As of January a month later On the 21st, “Wordle!” was ranked first on the overall list by confused and enthusiastic players.

Wordle Traffic

"Wordle!" Ranking trend from January 1, 2022 to April 23, 2022, picture source Qimai Data
“Wordle!” Ranking trend from January 1, 2022 to April 23, 2022, picture source Qimai Data

After that, “Wordle!”, which accidentally hit the traffic of “Wordle”, started a three-month journey to dominate the charts. It carved out a formidable straight line up the charts, and it still shows no sign of decline to this day.

As we’ve already discussed, the gameplay of Wordle is so simple that no one would consider it an object of study. But after it became a huge hit, the carnival itself became a phenomenon-level proposition.

Many practitioners attribute the success of Wordle to its strong social nature.

Interestingly, this wonderful social effect was not originally designed by Wardle, but came from the wonderful creativity of a player. In December last year, a user from New Zealand came up with a special way to share while using “Wordle” – replicating the small colorful squares in the puzzle interface.

The advantage of this is that it will not reveal the answer to the day’s riddle, but it can also show a personalized guessing process. Wardell quickly noticed this brilliant idea, saying: “I saw a lot of players jumping on board and doing the same thing, taking the time to open up the emoji keyboard and build their own grids. So I put this sharing feature on Got into the game.”

Yellow, green and black squares

There are yellow, green and black squares floating on our homepage, with unique mysterious numbers marked on them – the number of the “Wordle” question and the number of times the opportunity has been used. Colored squares without annotations are like a subculture code. Only those who know what you are sharing know. Those who didn’t know what was going on were full of doubts, while those who were on the radio wave tacitly praised it.

The legend of “Wordle” is dramatic from beginning to end.

One theory that is talked about by many media is that Wardle’s girlfriend loves crossword puzzles, so he designed “Wordle” in the hope of helping his girlfriend kill the boring time at home during the epidemic.

According to Waddell, the prototype of “Wordle” can be traced back to 2013. At that time, Wardell was very fond of the mini-game “Words with Friends” produced by Zynga. Waddell wanted to try making a word game of his own, and he remembered another game he had played as a child: Mastermind.

Puzzle board game Mastermind
Puzzle board game Mastermind

Under the rules of Mastermind, the player’s task is to guess a string of colors, and each operation will receive corresponding feedback – yes, this undoubtedly inspired the gameplay design of “Wordle”.

When the pandemic hit, Wardle picked up the idea again. What he needs to do next is to select a batch of words suitable for use as answers from the vast ocean of languages.

“When you’re playing Wordle, it’s very, very important that the answer is a word that you’re likely to have heard of, especially if you’re playing the game for the first time,” Waddell said. “If the answer is so unfamiliar that it turns out you’ve never heard the word before, then “you’re probably going to feel like you’ve been played by this nasty game.”

At first, Wardle tried to use algorithms to complete the screening, which was undoubtedly a more conventional path. Unfortunately, Waddell was not satisfied with the results and quickly gave up on the idea. He finally chose a clumsy solution: he and his wife classified each word into categories they had heard, words they didn’t recognize, and words that sounded familiar…

Word Game

13,000 words slipped into the funnel and were artificially filtered out into a list of answers, and then a word puzzle game was born. Of course, even though word puzzle culture has a broad historical audience in the English-speaking world, that doesn’t mean it’s a great business choice.

“I made a word game—the kind of thing that people think they shouldn’t be doing,” Waddell said of his experience. “I think when people imagine a game that’s going to be extremely popular and exciting, The fact that I would never think of something as ordinary as a word game first makes me feel a little sad.”

Fortunately, Waddell still believes that word games are not useless. He quoted the literary theorist Terry Eagleton: “Language is the air I breathe all the time.”

“What Eagleton means by this is that humans are language-dependent animals. Everyone’s experience is mediate by language. And everyone’s thoughts are also presented through language, and words are an integral part of it. ” Waddell explained.

Before it entered the public eye, the original players of “Wordle” were only his family members besides him and his wife. Although the viral sharing feature had not yet been born, Wardle also recognized the inherent social nature of Wordle. Because at that time, family members often started daily conversations with a brisk “Oh, I solved today’s “Wordle” in three minutes.”

Waddell may have vaguely touched on something at that time, but he had not yet truly understood the meaning of this sharing. It was not until much later, when the family-based sharing model evolved into a sharing system based on the entire Internet society, that he understood the true potential of “Wordle”.

Picture source network
Picture source network

Basic gameplay

In areas where English is common, the basic gameplay of “Wordle” has almost no threshold. So men, women, and children can get start very quickly. Trial and error again and again constitute the core fun of the game, which verifies Waddell’s good impression of Mastermind.

On February 1, 2022, the “New York Times” announced the acquisition of “Wordle”. The price of this acquisition reached seven-digit dollars. The company said that “Wordle” has accumulated more than 500 million plays since its launch. They hope to increase their digital subscriber base to 10 million by 2025.

Waddell said: “I enjoy the process of making games. But I am not interested in operating a commercial game. I position myself as an artist, and I enjoy the process of creating new things, but operating things with commercial attributes is really not suitable for me. I generate attraction.”

The artist Waddell sold “Wordle” in this way, but the aftermath caused by “Wordle” continues, and the story gradually derives more butterfly effect-like contexts…

In Lincolnwood, Illinois, USA, 80-year-old Ms. Denyse Holt, like many young people, has developed the habit of playing “Wordle” every day. Normally, she insists on sharing the “Wordle” results with her daughter every day.

Last weekend, Ms. Holt’s home was invade by a mentally disturb man. The daughter, who lives in Seattle, realized her mother was not sharing “Wordle” as usual, so she became alarmed and quickly called the police. Eventually, Ms. Holt was successfully rescue.

In China, a local developer has modified the gameplay of “Wordle” and created “Han Dou” with the goal of guessing idioms. Chinese players who are not familiar with English words can also experience the joy of “Wordle” in their own language atmosphere.

“Wordle”-like games are flourishing in niche circles,

Today, a large number of various “Wordle”-like games are flourishing in niche circles, because fans of different themes have their own unique “languages.”

At The New York Times, managers conducted a cleanup of Wordle’s word list to eliminate a range of vulgar and inappropriate words, including slurs and certain sexist slurs.

After the cleanup is complete, players will receive a “not in the vocabulary list” prompt when spelling certain words, which The New York Times hopes will encourage people of all ages to imagine more.

In the App Store, there are a large number of copycat games under the banner of “Wordle”. Apple quickly made its attitude clear. In addition to retaining the old game “Wordle!”, it also vigorously banned a number of counterfeit products. Some pirated game developers have also encountered verbal and written criticism from enthusiastic netizens on Twitter.

Counterfeit "Wordle", picture source App Store
Counterfeit “Wordle”, picture source App Store

At the top of the leaderboard, “Wordle!” adds a standalone game mode based on “Wordle” to the game. Developer Cravotta, who had unexpectedly gained a huge amount of money, contacted Waddell and decided to donate all the proceeds from the game to charity.

Ultimately, Cravolta discussed with Waddell and settled on BoostOakland, a charity that provides mentoring to young people in Oakland, California.

The original meaning of the word puzzle

Across the ocean, “Wordle” celebrates its 300th day. After finishing “Wordle” for the day, graduate student took the time to join the “WordleWordle” group on Douban.

“WordleWordle” is not a large-traffic group, and the topics are very monotonous. Most of them are netizens sharing the block diagrams of the day. The comment area is all filled with enthusiasts like Xiao Qin interacting with each other.

In Xiao Qin’s impression, there are very few people who complain about the difficulty of the questions. At most, everyone complains about their bad luck: “It was too dark, the first two times were all gray.” This sentence means that at the beginning of a question, The random attempts were all in vain and did not bring many clues for subsequent word guessing.

Obviously, “Wordle” is popular today, and there are already many people who have figured out the trick to solving problems. Veteran players more or less have their own “starting moves” that they are use to. Although media reports sometimes summarize the “most advantageous opening words”, Xiao Qin feels that “it is really unnecessary.”

Popular online game

This is very different from the popular online games. In the most popular competitive games, players are arouse with a burning desire to win and invest time or money in order to climb one step further on the endless ladder of competition.

But “Wordle” never really provides that ground. Competition still exists, but the limit is just “I took one step less than everyone else today.” Every day, people all over the world only have one question to pass the time with, and you won’t get upset or get angry. “Just looking for fun.” Xiao Qin concluded.

She clearly remember that a friend once forward a word list to her. Which was say to be obtaine from the code of the web page by an “external Internet master”. People believe that it contains all the answers to “Wordle”, and someone has even designed an algorithm that can accurately pinpoint the answers.

“Wordle” is simple and special

File photo Wordle
File photo Wordle

“Wordle” is simple and special. When Waddell first designed it, he knew he didn’t want to make an endless game, nor did he want players to complete one goal and then move on to the next, ad infinitum. “I just want a game that only takes you three minutes a day and that’s it, that’s all it takes,” Waddell said.

Sometimes, users on Twitter will provide feedback, criticizing the parts of the game design that are not “progressive” enough. For example, why can’t the game links be place in the grid corresponding to the emoticons? Wouldn’t it be easier to spread?

Even Wardle admits that block-style sharing is in some ways too subtle, but he still doesn’t agree with embedding a link to a game into a sharing page. “On the one hand, the current square grid has a nice, clean aesthetic, and if I had to put a web link in there, I personally think it would be a lot crappier.”

“On the other hand, I would feel very uncomfortable if the game was asking people to share just to get more people to play it… Why would I encourage people to actively share? Is it because they really want to do that? Or, do that? Is it better for the game?” Waddell say.

Social fission

For professionals, “Wordle” is social fission, minimalist gameplay and invisible “hungry marketing”. People interpret the success of “Wordle” with hindsight and attach dense annotations to it.

But the other side of the story is that the popularity of “Wordle” was not plann, predicted, or expected. It is completely free, has no ads, no in-app purchases, and does not follow the profit logic of commercial products from the beginning. Regarding the parts that many people analyze with great concern, Wardle admitted: “Frankly, I didn’t mean to do it.”

“Wordle” is like a small, extremely shallow glass. It is design with a limited capacity and will never be able to expand like other games. It will never be able to grow a huge, all-powerful intelligent robot from the bottom of the cup.

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