By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business
New York (CNN Business)Wordle is jumping from the P-H-O-N-E to the B-O-A-R-D.
Hasbro is partnering with the New York Times, which owns the popular online word puzzle, to create “Wordle: The Party Game.” The new board game “delivers classic Wordle gameplay, but now in an all new way,” the companies said in a press release.
Hasbro approached the New York Times to make a party game after noticing how popular Wordle had become online, according to Hasbro Gaming’s Senior Vice President and General Manager Adam Biehl.
“What sparked our interest was … how much fun people were having posting the results on social media,” Biehl said in an exclusive interview with CNN Business. “That’s when we knew that there was something special about it.”
“Wordle: The Party Game” is one of Hasbro’s fastest launches, Biehl said, as it took the team less than a year to create it. The new title fits into the company’s pop-culture portfolio of games, including Monopoly editions based on “Bridgerton” and “Stranger Things.” Hasbro (HAS) is paying the Times a licensing fee to use Wordle.
Hasbro’s gaming studio created many versions of the game before landing on the one that’s being released.
“We start with what we’re trying to achieve,” Biehl said, including being “authentic to the Wordle experience as much as possible because we want to capture what got consumers really interested in the game.”
Additionally, the team aimed to match “the quality of what the the Times is known for,” Biehl said. “It’s been a fun partnership to work with them on this.”
“Wordle: The Party Game” maintains the hallmark of Wordle’s game play, which gives players six chances to guess a five-letter word with the assist of some color-coded clues (yellow if the letter is correct but in the wrong place and green if the letter is in the correct spot).
In the board game edition, four different versions are available to play: fast, timed, teams and classic.
The classic version pits players against each other as they try to guess the letters in the word assigned by the “Wordle Host.” Players take turns as the host, and each round ends after six tries — unless the correct word is guessed. The host uses the colored tiles to place over the letters to indicate what’s correct. The timed and fast versions limit the amount of time players have to make their guesses.
Perhaps the most significant difference from the online game is the team version, which has two people playing off a single board versus another team and guessing the word their opponent has picked.
“We know people love to have game night and have their friends over to play games. They’re social experiences, so it’s a way to share, connect and create memories,” Biehl said.
Scoring is similar to how the online version encourages players to get the word in the fewest amount of guesses. The fewer tries a player needs, the fewer points they score — and the player with the fewest points at the end of the game wins.
The board game contains dry-erase boards and markers as well as protective partitions to prevent cheating and green and yellow tiles for hints. Also included is an official word list to use, compiled by the Times.
Although it’s a family game, Biehl said Hasbro expects the demographic “leans toward a slightly older audience” mirroring its other word games like Scrabble and Boggle. “We know those games are played by a slightly older audience, young adults and adults, but we want to make sure there’s a way in for the younger players because we know many families like to connect over games,” he added.
Josh Wardle, a Brooklyn-based software engineer formerly at Reddit, released the online game in October 2021 and it quickly became a cultural phenomenon. The New York Times bought Wordle for “low seven figures” in January 2022, joining its growing portfolio of online games that also includes the Crossword, the Mini and Spelling Bee.
Transforming Wordle into board game helps the Times’ keep its “existing audience engaged with Wordle, and also introduces Wordle to all new audiences,” Jonathan Knight, head of games for the Times, told CNN Business. “We are thrilled about the collaboration.”
Purchasing Wordle helped boost the number of digital subscriptions for the newspaper as it aims to diversify its revenue beyond advertising. Subscription revenue from digital products increased 26.3% in the first quarter from a year ago, to $226.8 million, encompassing more than 40% of overall sales.
“Wordle brought an unprecedented tens of millions of new users to the Times, many of whom stayed to play other games which drove our best quarter ever for net subscriber additions to Games,” said CEO Meredith Kopit Levien in the earnings release from May. She added that the company picked up 387,000 net digital subscribers in the quarter and now has 9.1 million total subscribers.
Wordle remains free to play, but the Times puts its other games behind a paywall following a limited amount of free plays. Knight said the company is focused on expanding Wordle’s presence by adding it to the Times’ main news app and Crossword app.
“We are very pleased with the continued engagement and ongoing enthusiasm behind Wordle,” said Knight.
— CNN Business’ Paul R. La Monica contributed to this report.
Photo: “Wordle: The Party Game” is being released in October.