Josh Wardle almost created a Wordle Android app in 2013

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Seemingly out of nowhere, viral sensation Wordle became a daily occurrence in 2021, filling Twitter with green and yellow squares and spawning legions of imitators — until creator Josh Wardle sold Wordle to the New York Times earlier this year. But it turns out Wardle started developing the game as an Android app way back in 2013.

And according to their own statements, “it looked like garbage”.

At a Game Developers Conference (GDC) panel entitled “Wordle: Doing the Opposite of What You’re Meant to Do,” Wardle explained the origins of his wordplay. Looking for a way to entertain his partner, he tried teaching [him]own Android development” and coded an early Wordle prototype that allowed you to play five letter words endlessly.

Wordle Android app prototype

Wordle for Android prototype (Image credit: Android Central)

He immediately encountered problems, such as the fact that of the 13,000 five-letter words in the dictionary, many are unfamiliar – mozed, dawts, gawcy, byded, zizel, emyds and rojis are just a few examples he had to filter out one by one.

But aside from narrowing the list down to recognizable words, he also claimed he was “awful” at Android coding and eventually “lost interest in the game.” He only returned there in 2021, having mastered web coding instead.

He admitted that his decision to make Wordle a website rather than an Android word game went against conventional wisdom. A wordle app would “track” your users and could send them push notifications.

In the end, it’s probably for the best that Wardle didn’t make it an Android app, aside from the unpolished design of the original app prototype. As he put it himself, the fact that people only played once a day created a “social aspect” that gave the game its enormous popularity. An app with endless words would quickly burn out users and be more difficult to share than a URL.

Josh Wardle discusses Wordle at GDC 2022

Wardle (Stage) said daily games like NYT Crossword and Spelling Bee inspired him when designing Wordle (Image credit: Android Central)

After describing Wordle’s massive rise to fame, Wardle explained why he decided to sell the brand.

“I’m not interested in running a games business,” Wardle said. Since the game was only 63KB, he could easily handle the huge increase in traffic with a Cloudflare payment of $100 per month. and he had no interest in tracking people and selling data to advertisers.

But when other people copied the game and monetized it, Wardle said it “felt really uncomfortable” to see others making money from something he’d been trying to keep free for everyone.

“The sale to the New York Times was a way for me to get away from that. I didn’t want to pay a lawyer to issue a cease and desist letter for a game I wasn’t making money from.”

Wardle said he “can’t tell you what’s next” other than it’s going to be a creative project that’s interesting to him, rather than the next Wordle trying to regain that same interest. “When I come out with the goal of making something popular or viral, it often fails miserably.”

You can be pretty sure whatever the project is, it probably won’t be one of the best Android games out there.

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