Wordle, the word guessing game that took over our Twitter timelines, currently has no official app. It may come as a surprise to anyone who has searched for it on the App Store, however – it will show you several blatant unofficial copies, which use the same name and mechanics as the original, which was directed by Josh Wardle.
Most people who have been online recently will have had at least some exposure to Wordle if they haven’t played it themselves (The Guardian reports that he has 2 million daily players). It’s a simple concept but well done: every day you go to the Wordle site, where you have five chances to guess a five-letter word. The game gives you information about which letters you put in the right place, which letters are in the word, but not in the order you chose, and which letters are not in the correct answer. Parts of Twitter have been overrun with black, green, and yellow square emojis, which players use to show off their gameplay without spoiling the word of the day.
As with most great ideas (especially the ones that go viral), there have been several clever parodies of Wordle, as well as waves of jokes on Twitter using the emoji block format that players use to share their scores. But while many parody versions send users back to the original, that doesn’t seem to be the case for the versions on the App Store. Instead, they do their best to look like the web version not to mention that they’re actually a spin-off. While trying five versions of the game on the App Store, only one seemed to recognize Wardle’s version – ironically, it was one of the few not called Wordle.
The situation is a bit embarrassing for Apple, which has often cited its high standards and app review process as the reason it should be allowed to maintain control over apps running on iPhones and iPads. The review process has been called into question by multiple scams and controversies, but these seem particularly egregious – they use the same name and have an interface extremely similar to the original. It’s easy to see a lot of people get tricked into thinking they’re playing an official version.
Worse yet, apps are copying a website, months after Apple defended progressive web apps in court as an option for developers in its legal battle with Epic Games. This argument may fall flat with developers targeting mobile audiences. Like Owen Williams, a UX manager, remarked on Twitter, they won’t even get a seat at the table when someone searches for their creation on the App Store (which a lot of people might do if they, say, see a flurry of tweets with the name of something new. cool everyone is playing with it).
If Apple and Google * actually * allowed proper competition, you would be able to register a PWA / web app in their stores if you go that route instead of a native app.
But uh, it doesn’t help to build their walled gardens so we have … this
– Owen Williams (@ow) January 11, 2022
To add insult to injury, it looks like Wordle clones aren’t as prevalent on the Google Play Store. Only one of the first two search results for “wordle” appeared to be a clone, and it was buried deep behind a “show more” button. Google Play reports the app has “over 500 downloads” – the developer behind one of Wordle’s iOS clones claimed to get 5,400 downloads per hour on Twitter, and their version wasn’t even in the top three search results. (The same developer tweeted a screenshot of a notification that their app was pending review, with the caption “Let’s see what Apple thinks” before the app went live.)
Wardle didn’t monetize his version of Wordle with ads, subscriptions, one-time payments, or a tip pot. According to a profile in The New York Times, he made the game for his partner, who loved crosswords. “I think people kind of appreciate that there’s this thing online that’s just fun,” Wardle said of Wordle’s success. “It’s not about trying to do anything fishy with your data or your eyes. It’s just a game that’s fun.
The Wordle apps I tried didn’t copy the lack of monetization pattern from the original. Some showed a plethora of ads, often with the option to pay to remove them, and one even had a $ 30 per year in-app purchase to unlock the “Pro” version. (The developer of this particular app said on his now private Twitter account that the app is “going to the fucking moon” and that one of its goals for 2022 is to “make tons of money.”) Paying would allow you to choose how many letters you wanted in the words and would allow multiple sets per day. As many have noted, the real once-a-day game of Wordle is another of the things that makes it so appealing.
Added a share button to Wordle which generates a spoiler-free emoji grid for you. Shout at @irihapeta for inventing such a cool way to share your results every day.
Word 180 3/6
Try it: https://t.co/pZTmeT1p7E
– Josh Wardle (@powerlanguish) December 16, 2021
The developer of Wordle explains the game’s sharing feature.
Most of the apps I tried didn’t have any obvious copy of the share feature of the original, so you can easily copy a series of spoiler-free blocks to share with friends or on social media. Whoever was offering the $ 30 subscription did so, adding a few more words and saying “The Wordle App” in place of Wordle.
Keeping glaring copies of the App Store might not be an easy moderating task if Apple wanted to – for example, there are a few games on the App Store that share the name “Wordle” but not the gameplay. However, they’re clearly not trying to capitalize on a trend by copying a popular app – many of them haven’t been updated in years (and so probably don’t require judgment from App Review. ).
The edge contacted Apple and one of the developers behind a Wordle clone. Neither responded to our request for comment.