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Wordle clones made the creator feel miserable & drove its sale

Josh Wardle revealed in his recent GDC 2022 talk that the issue of Wordle clones 'felt miserable' to him before he sold to New York Times.

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Wordle became a near-overnight sensation a short time after it was released. A fun, little project for Josh Wardle, the creator insisted on keeping it free. It was never originally about making money. However, when various Wordle clones started appearing, trying to bank on Wardle’s original success, that was when being the custodian of the game began to lose its shine and drove Wardle to sell to the New York Times.

Wardle shared his sentiments on the success of Wordle, the stress of Wordle clones, and the game’s eventual sale to the New York Times via a recent talk at GDC 2022.

“That isn't money that I would have made, because I said I don't want to make money, but something about [the copies] felt really deeply unpleasant for me,” said Wardle. “And so selling to the New York Times was a way for me to walk away from that. I didn't want to be paying a lawyer to issue cease and desists on the game that I'm not making money from.”

Wordle quickly became an internet craze after users started discovering and sharing it. The clones that came after are what stressed creator Josh Wardle into selling to the New York Times.
Wordle quickly became an internet craze after users started discovering and sharing it. The clones that came after are what stressed creator Josh Wardle into selling to the New York Times.

Wordle goes on to say that the potential of having to continue to chase after Wordle clones over a free game became an issue in which he “felt miserable.” Though he sometimes wonders about other opportunities he could have taken with the game.

“It was clear that this [copying] was going to happen, regardless of whether I wanted it to happen or not,” Wardle continued. “The business side of running a game doesn't interest me at all. So other people monetizing wasn't the reason that I sold to The New York Times, but if I find myself thinking about the what-ifs now... I have to remind myself of how I felt around that time, and I felt miserable.”

With New York Times having acquired Wordle and currently hosting it, it was most certainly a payday for Josh Wardle regardless. However, it also sounds like it was a much-necessary move for the creator’s well-being and a good way to separate from the game if there was to be any. For better or worse, with NYT running it, it also has the means to bust copycats and derivatives of Wordle.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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