From Nerdle to Lewdle: Five of the best Wordle spin-offs

The simple format of the online word puzzle has been copied in dozens of new ways

First Wordle was a grassroots hit that went viral, then the online word puzzle was bought by the New York Times for a seven-figure sum, and now it has spawned legions of imitators.

From Nerdle to Worldle, the simple format has been copied in dozens of new ways in recent weeks, sometimes to satisfy urges unfulfilled by the original, such as the opportunity to play more than once a day, but also to step up the challenge, profit from online advertising, or tap into niche interests.

The proliferation of replica games in particular reflects the experimental and collegial nature of software developer and online gaming culture, gaming experts said.

Adam Procter, who leads Southampton University's game design programme, said the copycats were mostly people taking advantage of Wordle's simplicity to use it "as an exercise to learn some code or to flex their muscles". A culture of "see if you can copy it" is "built into the DNA of software coding", he added.

In terms of reaching new users, the games that have been most successful are those that are a "unique variation" on the format, rather than the "carbon-copy clones", said Prof Chris Headleand, head of games design at Staffordshire University.

Here are some of the most popular and distinctive variations.

Nerdle

One of the more popular spin-offs, Nerdle converts Wordle into a numbers game by challenging players to figure out an eight-character calculation, for example 7+6/3=9, in just six guesses.

The game was created in the UK by Richard Mann, who has worked in tech startups for 20 years, after discussing with his teenage children the absence of a Wordle equivalent for maths fans. His son worked out the 17,723 valid solutions for eight-digit Nerdle. "After playing it for a while on paper, we knew it was just as fun playing with numbers as playing with letters," he said, adding that users especially enjoy combining it with Wordle as a daily test of mental agility.

Since launching on January 20th, the game been played by more than 1 million people in more than 200 countries. It raises revenue from advertisers and sponsors to cover its costs, as well as fundraising for child numeracy, but Mann hopes to grow it into an educational technology business since the game is popular with teachers, who use it to build confidence among pupils and teach them new concepts.

Worldle

A geographical guessing game that shows a silhouette of a country or territory and gives users six chances to work out the answer, Worldle is now pulling in 2 million users daily.

The game was created by Antoine Teuf, a 31-year-old French software developer. He has worked in online gaming and has previously unsuccessfully attempted to build web games, but had a eureka moment when he saw Wordle's success and realised that "it's better to keep it simple".

Like some other developers, he has set up an account on Ko-Fi, which allows users to buy him a “virtual coffee” to thank him for creating the game. So far, he has earned €4,800.

Crosswordle

For those who think Wordle is a bit too easy, there are several different versions of Crosswordle available. One describes itself as a cross between Wordle and Sudoku. The game provides the answer for the final row and the goal of the game is to fill in the rest of the grid.

Another version, created by Robert Flack, a 35-year-old Canadian software engineer for Google, requires users to guess two intersecting words.

He sees his contribution as reflective of developer culture, and plans to use it as a launchpad to make more games. “It’s really common for people in the software field to be passionate about building software, so they’ll often have side projects which are things they couldn’t make a full-time living from.”

Taylordle

From Lordle of the Rings to Wizarding Wordle (for Harry Potter fans), there are any number of games aimed at testing how fanatical a fan you are.

One especially popular game is Taylordle, created by three thirtysomething Taylor Swift superfans working in tech. In the first week, the game received more than 1.4 million visits and has now racked up 5.9 million plays.

“We tried to populate the game with words that newer Swifties would know and then we also have words that maybe only the hardcore stans would be able to figure out,” the creators said. “Our main goal now is to get Taylor Swift herself to play it.”

Lewdle

There are a number of slightly more risqué spin-offs, including Sweardle, Queerdle and Lewdle, which have a similar format to the original but use more, er, specific vocabulary.

Lewdle's creator, Gary Whitta, a 49-year-old British screenwriter living in the US, developed the game with his friend Adam Nickerson, and has been surprised to see 4.5 million others enjoy it too, with the result that many now submit their own ideas for lewd words to include.

“Since we both have a very juvenile sense of humour, we wanted to see what a version that only used naughty words would look like,” he said.

He added that in the original spirit of Wordle, there were no plans to monetise the game. “Neither of us really need this to be anything other than what it is – a fun hobby that has kind of grown a bit out of control in the most delightful way.” – Guardian

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