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Wordle is about to become a board game. Can it compete with the classic?

Wordle: The Party Game, an offline version of the original online word puzzle, will allow two to four players to compete in person and is set to release this fall.
Brandon Bell
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Wordle: The Party Game, an offline version of the original online word puzzle, will allow two to four players to compete in person and is set to release this fall.

Can the magic of Wordle — the popular online word-guessing game — translate to offline play?

Hasbro is betting on it. The game-maker has teamed up with the New York Times Co., which owns Wordle, to release Wordle: The Party Game, a board game version, this fall.

The word-guessing game has drawn a large, loyal fan base since its launch online last year. Many Wordle players share their daily results on social media via the unmistakable grids of green, yellow and black boxes.

Hasbro pitched the party game idea to the news company after seeing "how much fun people were having posting the results on social media," Hasbro Gaming Senior Vice President Adam Biehl told CNN, which first reported the news. "That's when we knew that there was something special about it."

How it works

The in-person party game retains the basic elements of the classic version. As with the digital game, players have six chances to guess a five-letter word. The fewer the tries, the better the score. Unlike the original Wordle game, which can be played solo, the party game allows two to four players.

The adaptation offers advantages already enjoyed by players who've had to improvise creative ways to play more often or make the game more interactive.

Those who can't resist texting or posting their scores, for example, will soon have the immediate gratification afforded by competing with others IRL. The dry-erase Wordle boards and markers included in each box also mean that avid Wordlers will no longer have to wait until the next day to play another round. Each round requires a designated Wordle host who gets to choose the mystery word that players have to guess.

The game will have four variations: classic, fast, timed and teams. The party game is now available for preorder and will be available for purchase in October.

The original online game is the brainchild of Josh Wardle, a software engineer in New York City who created Wordle — a play on his last name — for his partner, a lover of word games.

When Wardle released the game to the public in October 2021, he purposely avoided the usual trappings of free mobile games by keeping the puzzle free of ads and the need to log in. Within months, the game had amassed millions of daily users. The New York Times Co. acquired Wordle in January and, unlike with other paywalled games in its portfolio, has kept the game free.

In the first quarter of this year, it was the No. 2 most-talked-about game on Twitter, according to the social media platform, just behind Genshin Impact, an action role-playing video game.

Can a Wordle board game match its virtual success?

Mathew Sisson, who designs and produces games with his studio, Stellar Factory, doesn't doubt that fans will be lining up to preorder the offline version of the classic game.

But he's not ready to add it to his cart just yet. Although he has enjoyed playing the online game with his partner, he's waiting to see whether the adaptation will live up to the success of its original digital edition.

"The translation of a digital to analog game is not the easiest," he said.

He would know — he pulled off such a thing himself, when he converted the fast-paced digital game Spaceteam into a card game.

"There is that initial scare of, like, is this actually going to keep everyone that plays Wordle right now happy, as well as attract other people? And is it diverse enough to be different where, like, you want to actually have the game in person rather than continue playing on the digital platform?"

Even so, the brilliance of Wordle is its simplicity, and Sisson thinks that's why it will be hard to mess up in a board game format.

"I don't picture a 15-page rulebook. It's probably going to be one or two pages tops, and it will get people playing the game within five minutes," he said.

Hasbro's Biehl told CNN that keeping the game authentic to its original experience was a priority in creating the party game, so as not to lose sight of what hooked users to the game in the first place.

Although Sisson says the board game design is in good hands with a business-savvy game-maker like Hasbro, he would have liked to have seen independent designers produce it, he said, to keep the cultural phenomenon aligned with its humble DIY roots.

Still, he added, "Anything that gets people around the table and interacting in person, I'm for."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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