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Meet Worldle, the geography guessing game its creator calls a ‘tribute’ to Wordle

(The Washington Post illustration; iStock; Worldle)
4 min

Wordle, the free once-a-day word game from developer Josh Wardle that took the world by storm and has now found a home with the New York Times, has inspired countless spin-offs, including games that let players guess Taylor Swift lyrics and solve mathematical equations.

Now, another has arrived on the scene with a focus on guessing world geography, and its creator says it is gaining popularity each day. Meet Worldle.

What is Worldle, and is it different from Wordle?

Worldle was inspired by Wordle, according to its creator, Antoine Teuf, a 31-year-old Web and video game developer who lives in Montpellier, France — but it is not the same game.

Wordle and Worldle are, of course, similarly named, which has some social media users confused. But Teuf, in an interview with The Washington Post, said he doesn’t want Worldle to be seen as “a copy of the original Wordle game” but rather a “tribute” to it.

Where Wordle gives players six chances to guess a daily word, Worldle users have six tries in which to guess one country or territory based on an outline of its shape alone.

When Worldle players guess a country that is not correct, they are told how far and in which direction it is from the correct country on a map.

Worldle users can make the game more challenging by choosing to either hide the image of the country or territory, or to rotate the image in a random direction.

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Like Wordle, Worldle can be played once a day, and users can share their results on social media in little green, yellow and black square emoji that symbolize how quickly they got the correct answer.

Players from around the world have shared their Worldle results on Twitter under the hashtag #worldle, showing the game’s global reach, along with jokes and memes comparing the two games.

What’s Worldle’s backstory?

Teuf said he and his girlfriend discovered Wordle about a month ago and discussed building a spin off. She plays geography quizzes, Teuf says, and one of his best friends is a fan of the video game “GeoGuessr,” so developing a geography-based game made sense. And yet Teuf willingly admits he “sucks at geography” and would often lose at his own game when he first released it.

Daily crossword puzzles free from The Washington Post

Worldle, which Teuf built as a side project and ran in his spare time, soon “exploded.” He says it reached 10,000 users within 10 days of his first sharing it on social media in January. On Sunday, more than 570,000 people played Worldle; on Monday, it was more than 950,000.

Teuf attributes Worldle’s success to the same features that helped Wordle take off: It’s free, easy to play and access, doesn’t have ads and encourages players to share their results, creating an online community — at a time when many people can’t interact in person as much as they might like because of the pandemic.

“The game creates connections among people who potentially can’t see each other because of different travel restrictions,” he said.

Teuf said that as the game has gone more viral, it has brought more scrutiny. “When you know there’s 900,000 people playing it, there’s definitely more pressure,” he said. “In the mornings, I check how many users there were the day before and think, wow, that’s nuts.”

Teuf said he wants to keep the game free, but the website features a link for people to gift him a coffee if they like the game. So far, he’s received more than 2,700 euros, or 1,372 coffees, according to his website.

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How does Worldle pick the countries?

Worldle’s countries or territories are chosen at random every day, based on an OpenSource map and a standardized set of country codes developed by the International Organization for Standardization.

Teuf said he tries to be “neutral,” yet knows that geography can be anything but. He had to specify that the point of the game is to look for countries, territories or other places — after Hong Kong, a “special administrative region” of China, was selected one day and he received questions from users who thought they were looking just for countries. “I don’t doubt there will be other cases like that one in the future,” he said.

What other Wordle-like games can I play?

The Post’s Rachel Orr has crowdsourced eight suggestions of free Wordle-inspired games that you can check out here.