Puzzle Wars 🧩

A look at the secret sauce behind the incredible success of the New York Times puzzle games.
April 7, 2024
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Wordle's word of the day is New York Times

The New York Times (NYT) is dominating the gaming business.

In 2023, people played NYT puzzle games, Wordle, Spelling Bee, Connections, and the crossword 8 billion times. More people spend time playing games on the NYT app than reading the news, per YipitData.

global time spent for NYT owned apps showing NYT games is the largest segment

Many media companies want to break into the puzzle market but haven’t found the same success. So, how did the NYT pull it off?

In an interview with Axios, Jonathan Knight, NYT’s head of games, revealed their key differentiator: “We’re not trying to get you to spend 24/7 in our app; we’re not trying to get you addicted to solving level after level after level.”

Put simply, they want to fit the game into your life rather than make it your life. So, many NYT Games users form a small habit of playing when they drink their morning coffee, during lunch break, or when they get home from work.

The future for media is not so much games; although it is for the NYT, it’s just other revenue streams. Earlier this week, we looked at a new media business model from Hunterbrook that involves trading on the news and selling data for use in class-action and shareholder litigation lawsuits. Barstool Sports built a live events business called Rough N’ Rowdy.

Instead of trying to take a bite out of the NYT puzzle monopoly, look for media companies to build products that overlap with the needs and interests of their audiences.

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