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Wordle is a free online word game developed in 2021 by Josh Wardle. This game is a direct adaptation of the American TV game Lingo which offers to guess a word by several attempts, indicating for each of them the position of well-placed and misplaced letters. Thanks to its popularity on Twitter, Wordle met with immediate success in its English version. It was quickly offered in other languages and imitated in other versions. The originality of the game lies in the fact that only one puzzle common to all players is proposed each day.
On January 31, 2022, the game was bought by the New York Times for a sum of several million dollars.
Josh Wardle is a software developer who helped develop two social experiences for Reddit. He invents the game for his partner, who is passionate about puzzle games. Given the enthusiasm of his partner and his family, he decided to put his game online in mid-October 2021. In December 2021, he added the possibility of sharing his results on social media using emojis. The success was immediate: on November 1, 2021, 90 people played it, more than two million a few weeks later.
The name of the game combines the name of its developer (Wardle) and the English word word.
Several factors explain the great popularity of the game: its simplicity, its freeness, the absence of advertisements, the possibility of sharing its results on social media, the fact that it is not necessary to download an application to play it, and that it is not addictive, since you can only play it once a day.
The game is a direct variation of the American game show Lingo created in 1987 (and adapted to French television in 1990) which itself is inspired by the word game Jotto invented in 1955 by Morton M. Rosenfeld as well as the game Mastermind created by Mordecai Meirowitz who plays with colors. With the Lingo game, we indicate for each attempt the position of the letters which are well placed and badly placed unlike the Jotto game where we only specify the number of letters found (whether in good or bad position). For the Mastermind, a combination of colors must be found: at each attempt, the number of well-placed and misplaced colors is indicated (without specifying their position, which makes the game more difficult).
While Josh Wardle has no intention of commercializing his game, others have quickly taken inspiration from it to create paid apps that mimic the game and offer the ability to play it several times a day. Faced with protests from followers of the free game, the applications are withdrawn.
Following the popularity of Wordle, many variations have been created around the world in many languages.
Other sites offer the game in Spanish, Italian or Esperanto. Finally, many variants allowing a word to be guessed from a database more restricted than that of the dictionary have also surfaced. We thus find versions centered on the universe of Harry Potter, food or even the Korean boy band BTS.