Thursday, September 21, 2023

Meet Josh Wardle, The Brain Behind The Famous Online Game “Wordle”

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Josh Wardle is a British software engineer from South Wales who is known for developing viral sensation web-based word game Wordle. Newspaper publication behemoth, The New York Times gaming subsidiary has purchased the Wordle from Josh last month in January 2022.

The deal value is estimated to be more than $1,000,000 as the actual figures were not disclosed in the public domain. However, Josh gave a hint that he sold the game for a price “in the low seven figures.”

Here is everything you need to know about Josh Wardle, the brain behind the online word game Wordle, that has taken the internet by storm. Read on!

Josh Wardle, Creator of the web-based word game Wordle

Wordle is a game where you guess a five-letter word that gets generated every 24 hours in a maximum of six attempts and then shares your results with others along with the grid charting your attempts.

Recently Wordle made its transition from its erstwhile version to its new URL at the New York Times. Earlier only Wardle’s family had access to play Wordle which was later posted on his own web portal

General manager for games at The New York Times Company, Jonathan Knight, said,  “I am amazed at it and I am so impressed – I think it’s an incredible story. It’s a game that brought us all together and that’s what’s just so special about it. It’s one word a day and it’s the same word for everybody and we’re all trying to figure it out together.”

Josh Wardle who originally made the game for his partner Palak Shah, said, “If you’ve followed along with the story of Wordle, you’ll know that New York Times Games play a big part in its origins, and so this step feels very natural to me.”

New York Times publication released a statement saying, “Wordle will be free to play for new and existing players, and no changes will be made to its gameplay.” The company has confirmed that as of now there are no immediate plans to add Wordle to its existing portfolio of games that are only available with a subscription.

NYT is recreating and rebranding itself for the digital age and the company sees Wordle as a part of its strategy.

Marc Tracy, a reporter at New York Times who covers print and digital media-related news said, “The purchase, announced by The Times on Monday, reflects the growing importance of games, like crosswords and Spelling Bee, in the company’s quest to increase digital subscriptions to 10 million by 2025”.

Josh Wardle’s Early life and education

Wardle was born in the year 1985 and was brought up in Llanddewi Rhydderch, a small village near Abergavenny.

He completed his bachelor’s in media arts at Royal Holloway, University of London. After some time he relocated to the United States to enroll in the Master of Fine Arts in Digital Art program at the University of Oregon.


Post completion of his graduation, Josh moved to Oakland, California where he started as an artist at Reddit in the year 2011. He then became a product manager at Reddit serving for the community engineering team.

During his tenure at Reddit, he created popular collaborative experimental games like The Button in 2015 and Place in 2017.

He then resigned from Reddit to join Pinterest and rejoined back to Reddit as a software engineer. He is presently working as a software engineer at Brooklyn-based art collective MSCHF since Dec’21.

Creation of Wordle

When Josh was working at Reddit he made a prototype of the word game Wordle that was named after his surname in 2013. He then returned to his 2013 prototype to develop a word game for his partner, Palak Shah in January 2021.

Wordle was developed without any consultation from engineers. It was just Josh and Palak who made it happen.

Josh and Shah had played several New York Times games like Spelling Bee etc. during the COVID-19 pandemic. He then decided to develop a word game that they could play together.

Shah was very fond of games and he played a key role in the development of the game before it went public. She reviewed the entire list of 12,000 five-letter words available and further filtered it to 2,500 commonly-known words that could be used in the daily puzzle.

Wordle had no income from advertisements and the primary objective behind the development of the game was not monetary gain. In reality, it was costing around $100 per month to keep Wordle online.

Even though the game was a sensation on social media and witnessed runaway success, Josh did not want it to make it his full-time job.

Speaking about its origin, Josh said, “It’s not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs. It’s just a game that’s fun. It has been incredible to watch a game bring so much joy to so many, and I feel so grateful for the personal stories some of you have shared with me — from Wordle uniting distant family members, to provoking friendly rivalries, to supporting medical recoveries”.

On his Twitter handle, he kept a pinned tweet about Wordle as below:

Initially, the game had just 90 players within a month of making it public. In three months there were more than 300,000 daily players which jumped to a massive two million by the following week.

Wordle is very popular on the social media platform Twitter wherein users share results and answers with their followers.

Wordle is a perfect textbook example of how the internet loves an unlikely success story. Please do share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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