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As traditional online media struggles, the New York Times has found a solution: transforming into a gaming platform

Wordle Analysis by PIGIAMA KASAMA

It may sound like a provocation, but it's not: the New York Times is now more of a gaming company than a news organization!

While it remains a respected news source, its gaming division has experienced tremendous growth and popularity, surpassing the reach and engagement of its traditional news content.

This shift reflects the Times' strategic adaptation to the evolving media landscape, where digital games have become a powerful force in attracting and retaining audiences.

Adapting to a New Media Landscape 

Technically, the Times' first foray into games dates back to 1942 when it launched its crosswords for readers who wanted to engage in weekly challenges. In 2000, 40% of U.S. newspaper revenue came from the sale of classifieds - a greater share than either subscriber or ad revenue. 

Engagement overall was boosted by functions such as stock prices, movie times, sports scores and schedules, comics, and so on. However, facing declining newspaper subscriptions, the Times has strategically invested in expanding its digital games division, particularly since 2014.

This focus intensified in 2022 when the wildly popular word game "Wordle" joined the NYT Games app as one of the most successful games among the dozen daily puzzle games offered in the app. The vast success of these games has resulted in a fascinating trend: people are spending more time playing than consuming other Times content, as highlighted by the Garbage Day newsletter.

A New Path to Engagement and for the New York Times


Credits: ValueAct Capital

An investor chart, included in a recent SEC report, visually demonstrates this. The news app's usage has remained relatively stagnant since early 2020, with minor spikes during elections or major world events.

In stark contrast, the Games app has seen a steady rise in popularity over the past four years. This data suggests that the NYT's games are significantly more popular than any other current product, app, or content produced by the company.

This unexpected development aligns perfectly with the Times' strategy of bolstering its digital games business to support its broader media operations. Games have become one of the main profit earners for the Times, boasting over 1 million subscribers.

As the online media landscape struggles with layoffs, closures, and dwindling revenue, the NYT has discovered a solution: transforming into a gaming platform. And so far, this innovative approach appears to be a winning strategy: the New York Times' gaming app consistently ranks in the top 30 (and often, top 10) games on iOS.

The Origins of Wordle 

Wordle was created by Josh Wardle, a software engineer, as a personal project during the pandemic. Originally designed as a fun pastime for him and his partner, the game quickly gained traction among friends and family.

Recognizing its potential, Wardle released Wordle to the public in October 2021, and its popularity skyrocketed. In early 2022, The New York Times acquired Wordle, integrating it into their suite of online games and ensuring its accessibility to a broader audience.

How to Play Wordle 

Wordle - the game

The concept of Wordle is refreshingly simple. Each day, players are presented with a five-letter word that they must guess within six attempts. For each guess, the game provides feedback by highlighting letters in different colors:

  • Green indicates the letter is in the correct position.

  • Yellow signifies the letter is in the word but in the wrong position.

  • Gray means the letter is not in the word at all.

This daily puzzle resets every 24 hours, offering players a new challenge and fostering a sense of routine and anticipation.

The Appeal of Wordle

Simplicity and Accessibility 

One of the key factors behind Wordle’s success is its simplicity. Unlike many modern games that require extensive tutorials or complex mechanics, Wordle’s rules can be understood in seconds. Its minimalist design ensures that the focus remains on the puzzle itself, without any distracting advertisements or microtransactions. It truly is a masterpiece of game design that relies first and foremost on simplicity and accessibility.

Community and Sharing 

Wordle has effectively harnessed the power of social media to amplify its reach. After solving the puzzle, players can share their results—displayed as a grid of colored squares—on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. This feature not only fuels a sense of community and friendly competition but also acts as a daily ritual for many, akin to sharing a morning coffee.

Intellectual Challenge 

The game’s format taps into the human love for pattern recognition and problem-solving. Each guess brings players closer to cracking the code, providing a sense of accomplishment and intellectual satisfaction. The limited number of attempts adds a layer of suspense and excitement, making each day’s puzzle a unique mental exercise.

Routine and Mindfulness 

In an era where many people are seeking ways to incorporate mindfulness and routine into their lives, Wordle offers a perfect daily mental break. Its predictability—one puzzle per day—encourages players to take a moment of focused free time. This brief interlude can be both relaxing and stimulating, a small yet meaningful way to punctuate the day.

The Broader Impact of Wordle 

Beyond individual enjoyment, Wordle has had a broader cultural impact. Its simplicity and universal appeal have made it a favorite among educators, who use it as a fun and engaging tool for teaching vocabulary and spelling. Additionally, the game’s popularity has sparked a resurgence in interest in word games and puzzles, leading to a renaissance of sorts in the genre.

Not only that, the success is so widespread that many people search for articles explaining tricks to minimize the number of attempts needed to guess the word, and sometimes even search for the solutions. This has led to a series of articles in other publications aimed at offering these solutions to Wordle players, bringing visibility to other journalistic outlets as well.

The New York Times Wordle is more than just a word game; it’s a cultural phenomenon that has brought joy, challenge, and a sense of community to millions around the world. Its blend of simplicity, intellectual challenge, and social connectivity has struck a chord in our fast-paced, digital age.

Join the gaming revolution!

As Wordle continues to evolve and grow under the stewardship of The New York Times, it remains a testament to the enduring appeal of well-crafted, thoughtful games.

An idea that we at PIGIAMA KASAMA are developing in many other sectors and for many brands that can find once-unimaginable advantages simply by offering their audience engaging and well-crafted gaming experiences, capable of revolutionizing marketing and the relationship between brands and customers.

Don't miss this opportunity and join the revolution of branded games! Contact PIGIAMA KASAMA and discover how to evolve!


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