Older game called Wordle hits the jackpot, creator donates the windfall to charity

(Image credit: Josh Wardell)

App developer Steven Cravotta has had an unusual experience. Five years ago Cravotta created an app called Wordle (thanks, GR+), a casual game that challenges players to make words out of letters within a time limit. Very recently, Josh Wardle (!) created a free browser-based game called Wordle that has become a viral hit. Wardle's Wordle is designed to be played for a couple of minutes a day, with the results easily shareable around your social network, and its simplicity and universality has seen it picked up by millions of players as well as outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Jimmy Fallon show.

Keep Your Streak

Today's Wordle being played on a phone

(Image credit: Nurphoto via Getty)

Wordle today: Get the answer
Wordle tips: Don't get STUMPed
Wordle starting words: Headstart
Games like Wordle: More dailies

You can probably see where this is going. The current viral hit game is playable in your browser: It's not an app. Cravotta's Wordle is on iOS and currently sits as the number one app in the 'casual' category, and includes microtransactions for things like removing ads.

Cravotta took to Twitter to explain what happened from his perspective: "I built an app called Wordle when I was 18 mostly for fun, to sharpen my coding skillz, and maybe make a quick buck. It didn’t quite take off like my previous app, Grid, did. So after a few months and ~100k total downloads, I stopped updating and promoting the app."

And so life went on for Cravotta, until a couple of weeks ago when he checked his iOS developer dashboard and saw a graph with an extremely, extremely big spike.

Cravotta at this point hadn't heard of Wordle himself, but after a quick google he realised what was happening. "[Wardle's game] caught traction and soon major publications started running articles about his Wordle game, but none of them clearly specified that this was an ‘internet browser’ only game, so naturally people went to the AppStore to search Wordle," Cravotta writes. "Lo and behold, those people came across my app, also conveniently named Wordle. My Wordle app has gotten 200,000 downloads in the past 7 days and it's not even slowing down yet. I reached out to [Wardle] to see if we could donate the proceeds I have gotten."

What can you say: Fair play to Steven Cravotta. He's been the beneficiary of good luck and coincidence, but at the same time would have been perfectly entitled to stay quiet and keep the money. When something becomes viral like this you always get the vultures swooping in (check out this douchebag for example, who boasted about ripping off Wordle and got nuked online for it), so it's good to be reminded not everyone's a grasping cynic.

Cravotta and Wardle have agreed to donate the proceeds from 'old' Wordle's newfound success to Boost West Oakland, a charity providing free tutoring and mentoring to youths in that area of California.

"Can confirm this is true," Josh Wardle writes. "Steven Cravotta reached out to me unprompted and asked about donating the proceeds. He's a class act and you should follow him."

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."