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Wordle buyout by New York Times draws backlash from fans

Announcing
on Monday that it had bought Wordle for an undisclosed price in the low seven
figures, the Times said the game would “initially” remain free for
existing and new players.

That wording
led some social media users to suggest the media company would soon allow only
subscribers access.

“I have
never seen Twitter as immediately mad as it is about the NYT Wordle
buyout,” one user tweeted. “The NYT took one nice and simple thing
that a lot of people really liked, a dumb bit of fun in our exhaustingly dark
times, and implied that they’ll stick it behind a paywall.”

After
creating Wordle to play with his girlfriend Palak Shah, software engineer Josh
Wardle released it to the public in October. Within months it became a global
phenomenon, with celebrities such as Trevor Noah joining the bandwagon.

The
once-a-day online game gives a player six chances to figure out a five-letter
word, using the least number of guesses.

“I
would be lying if I said this hasn’t been a little overwhelming,” Wardle
said on a post on Twitter. “After all, I am just one person, and it is
important to me that, as Wordle grows, it continues to provide a great
experience to everyone.”

The Times
said it expects the acquisition to broaden its digital content as it tries to
reach the goal of 10 million subscribers by 2025.

The newspaper
was an early adopter of the paywall when it started digital subscription plans
back in 2011. That strategy helped it buck the trend of falling print revenues
and build a digital business.

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It has also
bought into other digital media such as subscription-based audio app Audm and
product review website Wirecutter. Last month it agreed to pay $550 million in
cash for sports site The Athletic.

As the Times
also seeks to grow paid readers outside its core news content, games and
puzzles have become a key part of a strategy to keep its audience engaged on
its apps and websites.

Its Games
unit, which has more than one million subscriptions, started with the Daily
Crossword, and later launched games such as Spelling Bee, Tiles, Letter Boxed
and Vertex.

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