New York CNN –
The New York Times had immediate success with Wordle. Now it could have a new hit on its hands.
A new puzzle called ‘Connections’ will be officially added to the newspaper’s games portfolio this week after becoming the Times’ second most played game behind Wordle, despite minimal advertising, after a successful testing period over the summer. Players will see Connections appear in the Times. Games app and in the Messages app under the Games tab starting this week.
Connections, also playable on desktop and mobile web, is a word association game that presents players with 16 words and asks them to group them into four different themes. Players have four chances to solve the puzzle before losing.
Jonathan Knight, the Times’ head of games, told CNN that Connections has been in development for a year and the games team pitched the idea at a “game jam” (think hackathon, but for games). After some fine-tuning of the idea, Connections launched in beta in June, with the puzzle only discoverable through search or in other games’ menus
“It was an instant hit, with millions of people playing it every week,” Knight said. Connections is “very accessible and very easy to understand.” The puzzle is also one of the Times’ “most editorial games,” in which the editor of Connections deliberately thinks of clever words that appear grouped together but are actually unrelated have.
“It’s that human-made component where the puzzle builder is up against you every day and trying to outsmart you as they try to outsmart you,” Knight said. “I think it’s some kind of magic.”
Players won’t see any changes to Connections once it leaves beta on Monday, a sign that it “resonated with people right away,” Knight said. The only change the Times made to the game was to clarify the instructions during the two-month beta period.
games and times‘ Other apps like Cooking have been an integral part of the Times’ strategy to grow sales beyond advertising. Subscription revenue from digital products rose nearly 7 percent to $409.6 million in the second quarter of this year, while advertising revenue was flat. The Times currently has 9.1 million digital-only subscribers.
Wordle remains the biggest game, the popularity of which negatively affects the release of new games and the acquisition of subscribers. Players playing other games, other when Wordle “had record growth last year,” Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said in a recent earnings announcement. “The huge audience we now have for games continues to drive launches for both our game subscription and the pack.”
Games are helping the Times grow because news is a “crowded category and the subscription market is largely ideology-limited and advertising versus news is a declining market,” Brian Morrissey, author of media newsletter The Rebooting, told CNN.
Though The Times “is already capturing a large chunk of the US news subscription market, it has even greater growth potential internationally,” Morrissey said. “Games have proven to be a powerful way to attract new customers who might be open to a package of updates but might not otherwise subscribe to just updates.”
According to data from Sensor Tower, The Times Games app, which costs $4.99 per month, has had 11 million downloads worldwide since January 2019, with downloads increasing 76% year over year. However, quarter-on-quarter growth has slowed to 4%.
A hit like “Connections” could reinforce that. Knight said “never say never” if Connections could surpass Wordle, but he doesn’t compare the success of a Times game to Wordle because it was a “viral phenomenon that brought the whole world together and you don’t see that.” ” Things very often in life, let alone a year later.”