Mysterious tweets with a string of grey, green, and yellow tiles have been appearing over and over in Twitter since January 2022. The first time we saw it, we were so puzzled and couldn’t help to think “what the heck is this?”
By now, the tweets are becoming much more “familiar” that in fact, it appears when users share their result of a word game called “Wordle” developed by Josh Wardle.
The rule is very much simple- players have six attempts to guess a word (a five-letter one, one word per day) with feedback given for each guess in the form of colored tiles indicating when letters match or occupy the correct position. After every guess, each letter is marked as green, yellow, or grey. Green indicates “that letter is correct and in the correct position”, yellow means “it is in the answer but not in the right position”, while grey indicates “it is not in the answer at all”.
After the game, players are able to share their result (their string of tiles) on social media. Those who are not familiar with the game would think “what the heck is that?”, while “those who know, know” that chats heat up like “Oh! I couldn’t get the first letter till the end!”, “you made it! What the!” This is what the sharing function aims at indeed.
“Wordle” was first released in October 2021, and it’s reported that its MAU reached 300K as of January 2nd, 2022. The game has also taken Japan by storm since January that it’s no longer a surprise to see those tiles appear on Twitter. Secondary creations like the Japanese version “WORDLE ja” and the Pokémon-themed version “Pokémon Wordle” thrived.
This time, Values has conducted a full investigation of the number and characteristics of Wordle players in Japan using an online behavior analysis tool called “Dockpit”.
Searchers of “Wordle” soared to 250K in just 2 months
First, let’s take a look at the number of users who searched “Wordle” online.
The number of search of “Wordle”
Until December 2021, the number of search was not prominent at all that the public started to show interests after January 2022 despite the word game was released in October. Also, considering the fact that the number of searchers doubled going from January to February, we would say the popularity of Wordle grew at a rapid way.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the actual keywords used by the searchers of “Wordle”.
The keyword ranking of “Wordle” searchers
The ranking shows that a large number of searchers only searched with the keyword “Wordle” and the average length of stay is a bit more than one minute. Probably, most of them have proceeded to the Wordle game page and started their Wordle journey.
Since February, keyword derivations like “Wordle Japanese” and “Pokémon Wordle” went up. In particular, the average length of stay of “Pokémon Wordle” is approx. 4 minutes (more than the double of the original Wordle). Actually, I have also tried playing “Pokémon Wordle” but it is quite difficult if you ask me. I spent more than 10 minutes but still, couldn’t reach the correct answer so eventually, I had to give up.
Besides, as the Wordle game page does not offer any explanation about the rules that the guessing game starts right away, searchers also searched “What’s Wordle”, “Wordle, how to play”, “Wordle, how to do” so as to get to know about the game. They are motivated to “explore” and know how others enjoy the game.
Down to earth, what is the actual number of its player?
Next, we investigated the actual number of Wordle players and the searchers who actually visited the game page. The game was acquired by The New York Times on 31st January that the link changed. We have included both links (before and after the acquisition) in our investigation this time.
Before acquisition) www.powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle/
After acquisition) www.nytimes.com/games/wordle/index.html
Users who visited www.powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle/ are directed to www.nytimes.com/games/wordle/index.html since February.
The number of searchers who visited the Wordle game page
The number of search of “Wordle” doubled from January to February while users who actually visited the Wordle game page ( hereinafter referred to as “Wordle” players) increased just 1.4 times.
Here, we visualized that searchers are interested to know about Wordle while most of them do not try the game indeed.
What are the characteristics of the players of “Wordle”?
And now, let’s see the characteristics of “Wordle” players from their demographics (gender, age group, residential area, and annual income)
The gender ratio of “Wordle” players
The age group ratio of “Wordle” players
The annual income ratio of “Wordle” players
The blue line indicates the characteristics of searchers who visited the Wordle page before the acquisition and the pink line indicates those after. As the acquisition occurred on January 31st, we can interpret the blue line as the Wordle players in January, and the pink one as those in February. There are no significant differences in terms of gender, age group, and annual income.
Regarding gender and age group, male players occupy more than 70%, players in their 20s occupy a little more than 50%, and players in 30s occupy a little less than 20%. These illustrate that the game is especially consumed by young male players.
As for the annual income of players, we compared that with the average of general internet users and found that the percentages of the groups with income lower than JPY 4 million and more than JPY 10 million are notably high. As mentioned, the majority of Wordle players is in their 20s so a certain number of students is included. We believe that this is the reason behind the high percentage of the JPY 4 million income group.
The interesting point is the high percentage of players with annual income more than JPY 10 million. Perhaps, they are attracted by the mysterious posts on social media then searched to solve the question “what’s that?” on their mind. They are eager to learn and interested to know about current trends.
Interest in news and blogging sites
Next, let’s go deeper and see what sorts of websites “Wordle” players are interested in so as to visualize their features more clearly.
The websites “Wordle” players interested in
Period: December 2021 – February 2022
Analysis tool Dockpit
Above is a ranking of the websites “Wordle” players interested in sorted in descending “reach difference”, the value of “reach difference” is obtained through the calculation above. By comparing that with general Internet users throughout the country, we are able to visualize the characteristics of “Wordle” players.
The players are mainly interested in three categories of websites- blogging sites (note, FC2 blog, Ameba blog, Qiita, livedoor blog, etc.), social media (mainly Twitter) and news media (Yahoo! News, My Navi News, ITmedia, Nikkei Shimbun, etc.)
Below is a classification of the websites players interested in- blogging sites, social media, and news media.
The characteristics of “Wordle” players as reflected by the websites they are interested in
The most unique feature we see here is “note”. Many other blogs like FC2 blog, Ameba blog, Qiita, and livedoor also appear in the high ranks.
Here are some samples of the entries about “Wordle” in various blogging sites.
Top search pages for “Wordle” query in online blogs
Blogging sites are always filled with walkthrough manuals and reviews. Thus, players probably visit these sites to get to know what Wordle is in the first place. Or, they want to get some walkthrough tips online.
Wordle is widespread on Twitter so it seems that players tend to compare the information on Twitter with that on other social media such as Facebook and Instagram, they then stick to Twitter to consume the game.
A significant feature is the tendency to visit Yahoo! News, My Navi News, and Nikkei Shimbun. Similar to the blogging sites mentioned above, news articles about Wordle in news media help players to equip themselves with more knowledge about the game and thus, players would love to weave their visit to online news media.
As our hypothesis based on the findings above, the series of behaviors of “Wordle” players should be like,
1. Get to know the mysterious word “Wordle” from the timeline on Twitter
2. Search “What is Wordle” through an online searching engine, then visit some online news media and blogging sites
3. Try the game
4. Feel curious to know smart strategies, browse blogging sites for walkthrough tips
A game with natural affinity with users who are eager to learn and those from the technology industry
And now, let’s go deeper and see the websites with unique “features values” that Wordle players are interested in so as to further visualize their personal image. “Feature values” are calculated according to the definitions below, which mirror that the sites are basically small in scale but with a high affinity with target users.
Websites that players are interested in (A feature value ranking)
The calculation of feature values of the websites
Feature value = number of browser of the target site which also visited our specified site ÷ number of browser of the target site
For instance, the calculation of the feature value of “site B” when browser input “site A” and search =
Number of browser of “site B” who also visited “site A” ÷ “number of browser of “site B”
The above website ranking illustrates that “Wordle” especially attracts players eager to learn and players from the IT industry (especially the technology industry).
The site with the highest feature value is “RIDDLER”, the webpage of RIDDLER Co., Ltd., with Ryogo MATSUMOTO (a famous mystery-solving game creator in Japan) as its CEO. The site is full of mystery-solving contents.
Next, we have “Quiz Maker” (a webpage for creating and solving quizzes) and “SOREDOKO” (an integrated webpage operated by the Rakuten Group, with the slogan "A swamp you never know”). Considering this, we can say that “eager to learn” is an obvious feature of Wordle players.
On the ranking, there are also media of the IT and technology industry especially target at engineers such as “ITnews”, “paiza development diary”, “paiza”, etc.
We also have overseas news media like “The Verge”, “The Guardian”, and “The New York Times”. “The New York Times” might appear because it has bought up Wordle while considering the appearance of similar sites, we come to know that Wordle players are generally interested in the newest trends in overseas countries.
A summary of the analysis of Wordle’s players
Considering all the analysis results above, the image of “Wordle players” should look like something summarized below.
＜The image of “Wordle” player.＞
Gender: male players occupy more than 70% of the total number
Age group: 20s- more than 50%, 302- little less than 20%, high percentage in younger age groups
Annual income: High percentage in “less than JPY 4 million” and “more than JPY 10 million”
Eager to learn
Affinity with the technology industry
Interested in the newest trends in overseas country
An important factor to Wordle’s success lies in its simple, minimized design and “mysterious format”- consumers are so hooked and they want to know “what the heck is it?” so it’s gone viral in just a few months. The distinctive spread on social media provide us insight as an interesting case study. We sincerely hope that you’ve found our investigation useful as well.
Top Photo by Adobe Stock
About the "Dockpit"
The data in this investigation is from “Dockpit”, an analysis tool with online behavior log data and user demographic information under the permission of panelists in Japan presented by VALUES, Inc.
※The numbers of users are estimated by the data in the monitor and the internet population in Japan.