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GDC 2022: Wordle creator Josh Wardle tells all

All about the explosion of his app’s popularity and selling all to the New York Times

At Games Developer Conference we’re used to giants of gaming rubbing shoulders with keen new upstarts and 2022’s presentations were no different. What was surprising however was the popularity of one newcomer’s session with the now world famous ‘one trick pony’ Josh Wardle giving one of the most eagerly attended sessions of the week.

Wardle talks Wordle

It was standing room only as Wordle’s Wardle dished all the gossip and gave his own frank, upfront backstory on the creation and subsequent success of arguably the biggest gaming phenomenon of the last year.

And the creator of Wordle, opened with a statement you don’t frequently hear at GDC: “I don’t think of myself as a game developer.”

“The first thing you’re not meant to do is make a word game, which is a shame because I love words,” he continued. “If you make words the core of the game, people come with a deep understanding already.”

He went on to reveal that his original design of Wordle in 2013 had infinite play, meaning that players could immediately play another round, over and over again, as much as they wanted.

But, inspired by the New York Times games selection – which has since acquired Wordle for an undisclosed seven-figure sum – Wardle implemented its one-round-a-day format and arguably turned the key on the games sustained and steady success, becoming a part of every word game lover’s morning routine.

Another of Wardle’s Wordle false starts concerned the delivery method he used for the game, only this time Wardle didn’t want to or need to correct his ‘mistake’.

“I made a website. And you’re supposed to make an app,” he explained. “But knowing that any players could click on this link and play it immediately was really important.”

Also – surprisingly in the current social climate – the game did not promote itself and the shareable results page did not even include a link back to the game…

However, the influx of mobile clones led Wardle to some introspection about whether to sell to the New York Times. “That’s not money I would have made, but knowing that other people were profiting from Wordle made me feel very uncomfortable,” he told us. The clone would be removed from the Apple App Store, but selling gave him a degree of closure and separation.

“For me, this is the best possible outcome.”

And will he be producing a sequel? He says not. But – given the packed audience hanging on his every word(le) – we say never say never…

Written By

Daniel Griffiths is a veteran journalist who has worked on some of the world's biggest entertainment, home and tech media brands. He's reviewed all the greats, interviewed countless big names, and reported on thousands of releases in the fields of video games, music, movies, tech, gadgets, home improvement, self build, interiors, garden design and more. He’s the ex-Editor of PSM3, GamesMaster, Future Music and ex-Group Editor-in-Chief of Electronic Musician, Guitarist, Guitar World, Computer Music and more. He renovates property and writes fun things for great websites.

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