The 16-word puzzle is the Times’ second most played puzzle and the newspaper’s most successful launch since Mini Crossword

*Por Sarah Scire

Jonathan Knight, Head of Games at New York Timeshas some rules for new games.

  • The game must be very accessible. “You should be able to hand your phone to someone without explanation,” disse Knight, “and that person should, relatively quickly, after a little trial and error, be able to understand the rules and how to win or resolve.”
  • O “game should be fun to play and fun to play”. Knight says he talks about this aspect – like the feedback it’s given, how reactive the buttons are, how tactile and good it should feel to play– with your team all the time.
  • The game must be “easy to learn, difficult to master”. The games offered vary in difficulty, from the relatively simple Wordle (purchased by Times in 2022) to themeless crosswords on Saturdays.
  • Bots do not need to be applied. A human editor should be behind every day’s puzzle. Knight doesn’t rule out using AI (artificial intelligence) to build puzzles in the future, but for now, he sees the man-made element of the NYT Games as “a differential” for the future of Times. “We have a process to rigorously build, edit, and test this content before releasing it.”disse Knight. “As a gamer, every day you are faced with a real puzzle created by a real person. There is an incredible game, almost for two people, between the builder and the solver [onde] they are trying to trick you and you are trying to trick them.”

Connections, the newest game from NYT Games, checks all of the above boxes. The 16-word puzzle debuted in beta on June 12, and on Friday it debuted on The New York Times Games app and in the “Play” tab of the Google Play app. New York Times. (Connections joins Crosswords, Spelling Bee, Sudoku and Wordle, among others.). Connections is now the 2nd most played game in the world Times (after Wordle) and the most successful launch of any internally developed game since the Times introduced Mini Crossword in 2014. (The Times declined to provide specific user numbers.)

This type of success is extremely important for the New York Times, which currently has everything to do with the package. O Times found that a subscriber who engages with news and games in a given week is more likely to remain a long-term subscriber than a subscriber who uses any other product (or combination of products between news, games, Wirecutter, The Athleticor Cooking). In addition to its dedicated NYT Games app, the Times offers puzzles in its flagship news app.

“I like to say, ‘Come for the news, stay for the games’”disse Knight. “Anything we can do to create a daily ‘news plus games’ habit, right there in the news app, is a really powerful driver of our strategy as a company.”

Not every new game finds an audience. The math-based game Digits, which launched in beta in April, closed in August.

“We always try to remember that this is both art and science.”disse Knight. “You can check all the boxes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be successful.”

Still, Knight said it’s critical to have a process around game development. New games go through a green light process similar to that found at gaming or entertainment companies. The complete system includes everything from recruiting diverse prototype testers to the company’s legal team. Timeschecking copyright issues with the game name.

“We start with a giant funnel of ideas and they can come from anywhere. We hold these hackathons [eventos] called Game Jam, where anyone on the team can come up with a game idea and present it”explained Knight. “Once something becomes a sales pitch, we start putting it to the test.”

New games are evaluated based on metrics that the Times you know they will boost your subscription business. That means reach is important — the popular Wordle, played by tens of millions of people every week, is a free funnel for the rest of the Times games — but retention is key. O Times looks for games that keep people coming back day after day, and sees indicator metrics that show users playing every day for 7 days and every day for 30 days as particularly revealing.

Connections proved to be a true contender, performing well out of the box on these important measurements. O Times does not do any marketing for its betas other than adding links to them in the Games menu next to existing games. But Connections soon became the first result you get if you search for “Connections” on Google.

“What excited us from the beginning about Connections was the volume of new users every day. It was growing very quickly and a lot of research was coming out.”disse Knight. “As a percentage of our new user volume, compared to Digits, a lot more of them were coming in through search. It gave us the feeling that there was a bit of organic virality going on.”

Knight was also impressed by the percentage of users who share their results. A color output will remind you of those generated by Wordle.

Wyna Liu writes the Connections daily puzzle. (Knight called the game “our most publisher-driven game since crosswords”). She wrote an article for the Times Insider about how she twisted her crossword skills into another format, taking inspiration from cartoonist and puzzle creator Robert Leighton for the fun question mark crossword clues she already knew well along the way.

We here at Nieman Lab were inspired and made our own version. You can try it here (in English).

*Sarah Scire is a deputy editor at Nieman Lab. Previously, she worked at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and The New York Times.

Text translated by Isadora Albernaz. Read the original in English.

O Poder360 has a partnership with two divisions of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation: the Nieman Journalism Lab and the Nieman Reports. The agreement consists of translating the texts of the Nieman Journalism Lab and Nieman Reports into Portuguese and publishing this material on Poder360. To access all translations already published, click here.


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