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The New York Times buys Wordle, the ultra-popular online word game

A person plays Wordle, an online word game, on a mobile phone. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

The New York Times announced Monday it has bought Wordle, the free once-a-day online word game that exploded in popularity in recent months.

The Times spent an undisclosed figure on the game, but described it in the “low-seven figures.” The company said in a statement that “at the time it moves to The New York Times, Wordle will be free to play for new and existing players, and no changes will be made to its gameplay.” The migration will happen “very shortly,” a spokesman said.

It’s a notable acquisition for the news organization, which has a goal of reaching 10 million digital subscribers by 2025 and has singled out the games and cooking parts of its business as “a key part” of its strategy. As of December 2021, New York Times Games and Cooking had 1 million subscribers each.

Software engineer Josh Wardle created the game in January 2021 for his partner Palak Shah, who loved word puzzles, particularly the Times’s “Spelling Bee” and daily crossword.

Players have six tries to guess a five-letter word, and with each try, the game indicates whether a particular letter is in the word, and whether it’s in the right place or not.

Wardle made Wordle public in October and it exploded in popularity; some 90 people played on Nov. 1, 2021, a figure that grew to more than 300,000 on Jan. 3, the Times reported.

It now has “millions” of daily players, according to the Times.

In a statement posted on social media, Wardle said that while it has been “incredible to watch a game bring so much joy to many,” it has also “been a little overwhelming. After all, I am just one person.”

He noted the Times’s game play had a “big part in its origin and so this step feels very natural to me” and is working to make sure players’ current wins, and winning streaks, are preserved.

“The game has gotten bigger than I ever imagined,” he wrote, adding: “which I suppose isn’t that much of a feat given I made the game for an audience of 1.”

This story has been updated with a statement from the Times.