‘Worle’ Clones Are Dominating the App Store

Deepak Gupta January 12, 2022
Updated 2022/01/12 at 1:32 AM

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter in the last week, chances are you’ve seen the grids of emoji boxes taking over your feed. This is thanks to wordle, a new puzzle game that has become an obsession for many since The New York Times newspaper wrote about this 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 it… more or less that. There’s only one puzzle per day, and it’s free to play with no ads. Its creator, a software developer named Josh Wardle, apparently “overloaded” for the popularity of your game. But the fact that the game didn’t have an app allowed the developers to create their own version of the game.

A particularly egregious example comes from developer Zach Shakked, who created an app called “Word – The Application.At first glance, the app, which has the caption “Word game everyone is playing!” could easily be confused with 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 “professional” subscription that costs $29.99 after a three-day “free trial.”

But between naming the app “Wordle” and running search ads against the term on the App Store, Shakked appears to have managed to cash in on the popularity of the game originally created by Wardle. “This is absurd. 450 attempts at 1am last night, now at 950 and getting new ones every minute,” he wrote in a tweet that has since gone private. “12,000 downloads, wordplay in 28th place and #4 result for “Worle” on the App Store. We’re going to the fucking moon.”

The developer of a counterfeit version of Wordle bragged about his success by copying the game viral.

Screenshot via Twitter

Shakked and Wardle did not respond to Ploonge’s questions. But Shakked isn’t the only developer trying to cash in on the popularity of Wordle. Your application is one of at least six wordle clones released on 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 to be “No. 1 Word game” in the App Store screenshots. (In fact, it is ranked number 7 in word games, according to the App Store listing.)

Fake apps that capitalize on the popularity of a viral game are nothing new, of course. Game developers have complained about the practice for years. Apple did not immediately respond to questions about wordle clones in your store. But thanks to emails released during the Epic v. Apple, we know that copycat apps have also been a source of frustration for Apple executives. “Nobody is reviewing these apps? Is no one looking after the store?” Phil Schiller wrote in an email from 2012. Three years later, he complained that he “can’t believe we still don’t have” automated tools to find fraudulent apps.

Update 11/1 19:52 ET: App Store listings for the wordle clones are no longer accessible and apps appear to have been removed from the store. We’ve contacted Apple for more information.

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