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New Puzzle Game “Connections” Joins New York Times’ Portfolio

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The New York Times found instant success with Wordle. Now it might have a new hit on its hands. The new puzzle game called Connections is officially joining the newspaper’s portfolio of games this week. This comes after a successful summer testing phase where it became the Times’ second-most played game behind Wordle despite minimal promotion.

Players will see Connections appear in the Times’ Games app and in the news app under the Play tab beginning this week. It can also be played on desktop and mobile web. Connections is a word association game that presents players with 16 words and challenges them to group them together in four different topics. Players have four chances to solve the puzzle before losing.

Connections is the newest hit for the New York Times.

Jonathan Knight, head of Games at the Times, revealed that Connections has been in development for a year. The games team came up with the idea during a “Game Jam,” where they brainstormed and refined the concept. After fine-tuning, Connections launched in beta in June, initially findable only through search or in the menu of other games.

The game saw immediate success, with millions of people playing it weekly. Connections is described as “very approachable and easy to understand.” It is also one of the Times’ “most editorially driven games,” with the Connections’ editor intentionally selecting clever words that may appear to be grouped together but are not actually related.

According to Knight, the human-made component and the puzzle constructor engaging in a battle of wits with the player is what makes Connections special. He refers to it as “kind of magic.”

The game will undergo no changes once it leaves beta, indicating that it resonated with players right from the start. The only modification made during the two-month beta period was clarifying the instructions.

Games, along with other apps like Cooking, are a crucial part of the Times’ strategy to boost revenue beyond advertising. In the second quarter of this year, subscription revenue from digital products increased nearly 7% to $409.6 million, while advertising revenue remained flat. The Times currently boasts 9.1 million digital-only subscribers.

Wordle continues to be the most popular game, and its success has had a positive impact on launching new games and attracting subscribers. According to Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien, players engaging with games other than Wordle experienced record growth over the past year, further contributing to the success of the Games subscription and the bundle.

Games have become instrumental in the Times’ growth, as the news category is crowded and limited in terms of subscription market potential. Additionally, the market for advertising against news is declining. According to Brian Morrissey, author of the media newsletter The Rebooting, games have proven to be a powerful way for the Times to attract new customers who may be open to a bundle with news but wouldn’t subscribe to news alone.

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