If you’ve spent any time on Twitter in the past week, chances are you’ve seen the grids of emoji boxes take over your feed. That’s thanks to Wordle, a new puzzle game that has become something of an obsession for many since The New York Times wrote about it just over a week ago.
Like other viral games, Wordle is deceptively simple: you have six chances to guess a new five-letter word. And that’s… pretty much it. There is only one puzzle per day and it is free to play with no ads. Its creator, a software developer named Josh Wardle, is apparently “overwhelmed” by the popularity of his game. But the fact that the game doesn’t have an app has allowed developers to create their own knock-off version of the game.
One particularly egregious example comes from developer Zach Shakked who created an app called “Wordle – The App.” At first glance, the app, subtitled “Word Game Everyone’s Playing!” can easily be mistaken for the original. The word grid looks almost the same and even uses the same color scheme. But Shakked’s version also asks players to sign up for a “pro” subscription that costs $29.99 after a three-day “free trial”.
But between calling the app “Wordle” and running search ads against the term in the App Store, Shakked seems to have managed to capitalize on the popularity of the game originally created by Wardle. “This is absurd. 450 trials at 1am, now at 950 and getting new ones every minute,” he wrote in a tweet that has since been made private. “12K downloads, wordplay number 28 and result #4 for “Wordle” on the App Store. We’re going to the damn moon.”
Screenshot from Twitter
Shakked and Wardle did not respond to questions from Engadget. But Shakked isn’t the only developer trying to capitalize on Wordle’s popularity. His app is one of at least six clones of Wordle to have launched in the App Store in the eight days since the original New York Times article about Wordle. Another, called “What Word – Wordle,” which charges a $0.99 in-app purchase to remove ads, claims the “No. 1 Word Game” in the App Store screenshots. (It even ranks number 7 in word games, according to the App Store list.)
Scammy knockoff apps capitalizing on the popularity of a viral game is nothing new, of course. Game developers have been complaining about the practice for years. Apple did not immediately respond to questions about Wordle clones in its store. But thanks to emails released during the Epic v. Apple trial, we know that copycat apps have also long been a source of frustration for Apple executives. “Doesn’t anyone rate these apps? Doesn’t anyone mind the store?” wrote Phil Schiller in a 2012 email. Three years later, he complained that “I can’t believe we still don’t have that” automated tools to find scam apps.
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