Wordle's Success Has Spawned Variants For Niche Interests

The start of 2022 has seen an unexpected boom of popularity for Wordle, an online game where players are given six guesses to correctly identify a five-letter word. With new puzzles available each day and a simple one-click option for sharing results with friends, Wordle appealed to an audience seeking distraction and connection amid the tightening of COVID-19 restrictions.

The viral popularity of Wordle has caused a number of Wordle variants to crop up around the Internet, most of which are free-to-play and created by independent programmers similar to Wordle creator Josh Wardle. While some replace the word puzzles with math, geography, or trivia, all feature the central conceit of using a (typically limited) number of guesses to reach a solution, with color-coded hints provided along the way.

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History of Wordle's Success

When New York software engineer Josh Wardle first created Wordle, his goal was merely to design a fun word game he could play with his puzzle-loving partner. He made the game public in October 2021, and it initially gained traction only among his immediate family and friends. Its popularity took off in early 2022 thanks to TikTok and other social media platforms. By the end of January, Wordle boasted over two million daily players.

Its success was partially attributed to its unique sharing system. Players' daily scores are displayed on social media such as Facebook and Twitter as an eye-catching series of green, yellow, and gray squares, representing correct, partially correct, and incorrectly guessed letters respectively. The noticeable pattern made it easy for prospective players to become aware of Wordle and try it out for themselves - although it has also led to conflict when some Wordle fans accused others of faking their score.

As a result of its viral popularity, the New York Times took interest in Wordle. In January 2022, the Times purchased Wordle for a sum described as 'somewhere in the low seven figures.' The game was migrated from Wardle's personal Website to the Times' site in mid-February. Currently, the game remains free-to-play. While a spokesperson for the Times says that Wordle will stay free for the time being, it is possible that the word puzzle will eventually be added to the pay-to-pay 'NYT Games' bundle, which also includes Spelling Bee, Letter Boxed, and the daily crossword.

Wordle's variants began cropping up as early as the beginning of 2022, with more released each week as the original's popularity continues to grow. Currently, none have been purchased by the New York Times as Wordle itself has, and as a result most remain free-to-play.

Squirdle

Created by Sergio "Fireblend" Esquivel, Squirdle challenges fans of the Pokemon series to guess the mystery monster out of 898 options (regional variants and Mega Evolutions excluded). Players are given eight guesses and are provided with hints regarding the Pokemon's type, height, weight, and which of the eight generations of games it hails from. While a daily puzzle is available for those who want to share results with their friends, Squirdle fans can also choose to play as many rounds as they like. Those less confident in their Pokemon knowledge can also choose to play an easier version in which only the 151 Generation 1 Pokemon are included.

Squabble

Players with a competitive edge can try out Squabble, a battle royale-style Wordle variant developed by a programmer with the screen name Ottomated. Although currently in its beta version, Squabble offers two different competitive modes based on guessing the correct five-letter word faster than a group of opponents. Blitz mode allows up to five players to compete against each other, while Squabble Royale is a tournament-style mode that supports up to 99 players at once. The design of Squabble was inspired by Tetris 99, Super Mario 99, and other 99-player competitive games.

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Nerdle

Like Wordle, Nerdle offers one daily puzzle to complete. Unlike Wordle, Nerdle uses numbers, and not just to calculate the best starting word. Players must fill in the eight spaces of an equation that combines numbers with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division signs. Designed by data scientist Richard Mann and his two teenage children, Nerdle's equations must be mathematically correct and must always include an equals sign. Fortunately, for those who may not be fans of math, a daily Mini Nerdle puzzle featuring only six blanks to fill in is also available.

Dordle

The name Dordle is a portmanteau of 'double' and 'Wordle,' and players have to identify two distinct five-letter words at the same time with only eight guesses in total. Only when the first word has been correctly guessed can players move on to the second word, which sometimes means luck is required. Creator Guilherme "Zaratustra" Tows offers both a daily Dordle puzzle and a free mode with an infinite number of randomly generated puzzles.

Globle

Globle is among the most visually distinct of the Wordle variants, presenting players with a globe and requiring them to click on countries in order to guess. Each guessed country then displays a country, indicating how close it is to the mystery country of the day. Creator Abe Train hopes that puzzle fans will learn a bit more about geography from playing Globle, as the countries are not labeled by name on the globe. Only one daily puzzle is currently available, but players are given an infinite number of guesses rather than being limited to six or eight.

These are only a few of the Wordle variants that have popped up in the wake of the word puzzle's viral popularity. Other Wordle-like games require players to guess a word related to Taylor Swift, a word used in the Lord of the Rings series, an airport identification code, a New York City subway route, and many others. It's likely that more Wordle variants will be created, especially if the original is eventually locked behind a paywall or further censored by the New York Times.

Wordle and its variants are available for all browsers.

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