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This photo illustration shows a person playing online word game “Wordle” on a mobile phone in Washington, DC on January 11, 2022.
Stefani Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

The New York Times is acquiring Wordle, an online game that shot up to popularity seemingly overnight.

The move highlights the importance of the company’s Games unit, which hosts things like crosswords and Spelling Bee, as a way to attract new subscribers.

“The Times remains focused on becoming the essential subscription for every English-speaking person seeking to understand and engage with the world. New York Times Games are a key part of that strategy,” the company said in a release. As of the end of the third quarter, the company had approximately 980,000 Games subscriptions.

Founded by software engineer Josh Wardle in October 2021, Wordle gives players six tries to guess a five-letter mystery word every day. The game became a cultural phenomenon earlier this month, with people sharing their scores in the form of emojis. Only 90 people played the game on Nov. 1, according to the Times. About 300,000 people were playing as of mid-January. The number is now in the millions.

The Times said in a release it acquired Wordle for a price in the low-seven figures. The company said Wordle will be free to play for new and existing players. It added that no changes will be made to its gameplay.

In a statement posted to social media, Wardle added he was working with the company to ensure users’ wins and streaks are preserved.

— CNBC’s Alex Sherman contributed to this report.

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