September 29, 2023

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Connections: The New York Times may have found its next spot

Connections: The New York Times may have found its next spot

New York

The New York Times was an instant hit with Wordle. And now she may have a new blow on her hands.

A new puzzle called Connections officially joins the newspaper’s game lineup this week, after a successful summer testing phase where it became the second most played game in the Thames after Wordle despite minimal promotion. Players will see connections appear at times The Games app and in the News app under the Play tab starting this week.

links, which can also be played on desktop and mobile web, is a word connect game that presents players with 16 words and challenges them to put them together on four different themes. Players have four chances to solve the puzzle before losing.

The Times’ head of games, Jonathan Knight, told CNN that Connections had been in development for a year, with the games team brainstorming the idea in the first place. “jam game” (Think: a hackathon, but for games.) After some fine tuning of the idea, Connections launched in beta in June, where the puzzle can only be found via search or in the list of other games

It was an instant hit, Knight said, with millions of people playing it weekly. The connections are “very easy, very easy to understand”. The puzzle is also one of The Times’ “most editing-driven games” with the Connections editor deliberately thinking of clever words that may appear to be grouped together but are in fact not linked together.

“It’s that man-made element where you encounter the Puzzler every day and try to outsmart them as they try to outsmart you,” Knight said. “I think that’s some kind of magic.”

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Knight said players won’t see any changes to Connections once it exits beta on Monday, a sign that it “resonated with people right away.” The only adjustment the Times made to the game was to clarify the instructions during the two-month trial period.

Games and timesOther apps such as Cooking have been a key part of the Times’ strategy to increase revenue beyond advertising. Subscription revenue from digital products increased nearly 7% to $409.6 million in the second quarter of this year, while advertising revenue remained flat. The Times currently has just 9.1 million digital subscribers.

Wordle continues to be the biggest game, with its popularity greatly affecting new game releases and subscribers. Players play other games Wordle has “experienced record growth over the past year,” said Meredith Cubitt Levine, chief executive of The Times, on a recent earnings call. “The huge audience we now have for games continues to support both the game subscription and the bundle.”

Games help the Times grow because news is “a crowded category and the subscription market is limited, largely because of ideology, and advertising against news is a declining market,” says Brian Morrissey, author of Games. Reboot newsletter he told CNN.

Morrissey said that although the Times “already captures a significant portion of the news subscription market in the United States, it could grow even more internationally.” “Games have proven to be a powerful way to acquire new customers who may be open to a range of news but would otherwise not only subscribe to the news.”

The Times’ Games app, which costs $4.99 per month, has been downloaded 11 million times globally since January 2019, according to Sensor Tower data, with the number of downloads up 76% year-over-year. However, growth slowed to 4% sequentially.

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A hit like Connections can boost that. “Never say never” if Connections can overtake Wordle, Knight said, but he doesn’t compare the success of Times to Wordle, since that was a “viral phenomenon that brought the whole world together, and you don’t see that ‘thing often in a lifetime, less much after one year.