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Wordle ripoffs are running amok

The great Wordle burgle has begun

A game of Wordle with NEVER STEAL GAMES filled out in the first three out of six rows. Image: Wordle/Joshua Rivera
Joshua Rivera (he/him) is an entertainment and culture journalist specializing in film, TV, and video game criticism, the latest stop in a decade-plus career as a critic.

Wordle is arguably the first big game of 2022. The straightforward word game gives players six chances to guess a word, with one puzzle available each day. Wordle has taken off in popularity over the winter, thanks to a feature that allows players to share how well they did without spoiling the day’s word. The game is also free, making it a nice diversion for people of all sorts to spend a few minutes guessing at the day’s word and challenging their friends to try. It’s a nice little bit of community at the start of the year.

But success breeds opportunistic copycats, some of whom have little problem charging money where Wordle does not.

On Tuesday, Zach Shakked, a self-styled entrepreneur, went viral for tweets gloating about the iOS App Store success of The Wordle App, his free-to-play clone with in-app purchases available to download. (Shakked did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication and has set his previously public Twitter account to private.)

Shakked may be Wordle’s loudest and most shameless copycat, but he’s not the only one. There are several other App Store clones, all of which do very little — a punctuation mark, in two cases — to suggest that they are not the original Wordle. A Bloomberg story on the clones cites 2014’s Flappy Bird craze to note that while imitators do run rampant on the storefront, Apple has removed them before — but Apple is not a consistent moderator of its platforms.

This is a bummer in just about any context, but it feels particularly sour given Wordle’s origin story. In a New York Times profile, creator Josh Wardle (the title is a pun on his name) said he created the game as a gift for his wife, who loves word games. This is why the game, which is playable only in a web browser, doesn’t have a lot of the clutter other free games have. There are no ads, the design is spare, and there’s nothing goading players to come back.

Wordle then, has kindness baked into its design. And while some may consider everything to be fair game on the free market, stealing something openly kind is a great way to look like a real piece of shit.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.