Josh Wardle: who invented Wordle game, age, where is he from - and net worth after New York Times deal

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Wardle is from Abergavenny in Wales and invented the game for girlfriend Palak Shah, who was bored during lockdown

Wordle is an “amazing, magical game” with a “very special, unique story”, the head of games at The New York Times has said in the wake of the US newspaper buying the popular online puzzle.

The web-based game has been a huge hit over the last couple of months.

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Initially created by British software engineer Josh Wardle for his partner, Wordle has become an online phenomenon with millions of daily users.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Jonathan Knight, the general manager for games at The New York Times Company 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.”

But just who is the game’s creator, Josh Wardle?

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who is Josh Wardle?

Josh Wardle is a Welsh-born software engineer who now lives in New York.

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Previously an employee of social news and discussion website Reddit who “used to work in Silicon Valley”, Wardle initially created the game for himself and his partner to play.

The 38-year old was inspired to create the game - which is nearly identical to the pen-and-paper game Jotto and the US television game show, Lingo - after the couple “got really into the New York Times crossword”.

“I wanted to try making a game that she and I would enjoy playing together, and Wordle was a result of that,” he explained in an interview with Slate.

What is Wordle? How to play Wordle, game rules, why it’s so popular and 5 letter words with most vowels to tryWhat is Wordle? How to play Wordle, game rules, why it’s so popular and 5 letter words with most vowels to try
What is Wordle? How to play Wordle, game rules, why it’s so popular and 5 letter words with most vowels to try

How was Wordle created?

Wardle actually started work on a prototype of Wordle almost a decade ago in 2013, which, though mechanically identical, had some “big differences”.

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For instance, players were able to move onto new puzzles as soon as they’d completed one (the now-popular version gives everybody just one a day).

The current day Wordle also pools its daily answer from a relatively limited set of words - just 2,315 of the more than 12,000 five-letter English language words.

Those words were chosen by Wardle’s partner, who categorised them into those she knew, those she did not know, and those she might have known.

But the prototype wasn’t so refined.

“I just dumped every five-letter word in the English language from whatever dictionary I found online,” said Wardle. “So there were some very obscure words in the English language that I have never heard of.”

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This led to a very different game, one in which players would often end up “brute-forcing” their way to an answer.

Wardle opted to keep the game deliberately simple, with only one puzzle per day so it does not require too much time, and no adverts demanding the user’s attention.

Josh Wardle (right) created Wordle for his partner - it now boasts millions of players daily (Photos: Twitter/Getty Images)Josh Wardle (right) created Wordle for his partner - it now boasts millions of players daily (Photos: Twitter/Getty Images)
Josh Wardle (right) created Wordle for his partner - it now boasts millions of players daily (Photos: Twitter/Getty Images)

Wardle says his experiences working in Silicon Valley helped shape the game into the simplistic, ad-free experience it is today.

“I’m aware of the things that, especially with games, you’re meant to do with people’s attention,” he said. “Things like endless play, or sending them push notifications, or asking them for sign-up information.

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“Philosophically, I enjoy doing the opposite of all those things, doing all the things that you are not meant to do.”

But at Wordle’s heart, Wardle says he was “literally just making a game for my partner, and I made some decisions that we would like.”

Who is his partner?

Little is known about Wardle’s partner, for whom he initially created Wordle.

What we do know is that she is called Palak Shah, and is American, a fact that infamously ruffled the feathers of British players a number of weeks back.

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The word ‘favor’ was included as one of the game’s answers, but using the American spelling and omitting the U of the British English version so as to make it a five-letter word.

Wardle explains that, because he made the game for Shah, “it’s very focused on what she knows and doesn’t know.”

“I was chatting with her this morning actually about, ‘How do you feel about the favor thing?’ And she was like, ‘I’m American. You made the game for me.’”

Why did he sell it?

Wardle has said he decided to sell the virtual puzzle after it snowballed and became “overwhelming” to run.

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He announced the move on Twitter, thanking users for sharing touching stories about the effect the game has had on their lives and relationships and adding that he was “thrilled” about the takeover.

He said: “The game has gotten bigger than I ever imagined (which I suppose isn’t that much of a feat given I made the game for an audience of one).

“It has been incredible to watch the 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 the flip side, I’d be lying if I said this hasn’t been overwhelming.

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“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 NYT said the ad-free website was bought for a sum “in the low seven figures” - it added that “the game would initially remain free to new and existing players”.

What is his net worth?

Despite Wardle selling the game for a figure “in the low seven figures”, estimates his net worth to be between $600K and $800K.

Thats around £442K to £590K.

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