3 August

Words With Friends: A Language Geek's Favorite Time Killer

As a kid, our family played lots of games – board games, card games, video games, lawn darts, baseball, volleyball and almost anything else you can imagine. The one game that was never really a kids' adventure was Scrabble, which turned out to be Clash of the Titans between my grandfather and my mother. It was my grandfather who would routinely crush the New York Times crosswords in less than 30 minutes versus my mom who was a national runner-up in the Spelling Bee in her teenage years. Suffice to say, there were always at least two dictionaries near the board and it was fun to watch them battle it out. In retrospect, I probably learned more words and definitions than most kids during those years.

So fast-forward to July 2009, and along comes a killer iPhone game called Words with Friends (WwF) from Texas-based Newtoy Inc. Of course I have a genetic predisposition to join in the fun – at least as long as my mom doesn't have an iPhone. WwF was created by two ex-Ensemble Studios brothers named Paul and David Bettner, who were hot off working on Halo Wars but preferred to run a small-scale indie studio themselves. At its core, WwF a word-based game that automatically applies the dictionary to words being played, and it rotates turns asynchronously using the app-level notifications feature in the iPhone. So you know exactly when it's your turn, and it's up to you to drop high-scoring words.

In reality, the game is very much similar to traditional Scrabble but it's dwarfed the original in online app popularity. The numbers as of about a month ago are mind-boggling: 1.6M active daily users who average ~1 hour daily; serves >1.5B ad impressions monthly; and more than 1B user moves. That's called traction!

My WwF user name is DaveWalters, so come and find me for a game. This is easily the most addicitive game to find its way onto my iPhone (thanks @Stammy). I will tell everyone in advance that Stephen Fleming is the apex predator of my contact list, and you can get a competitive little 350-point battle from Keith McGreggor, Melanie Brandt or my wife. I'd love to hear any player suggestions as taking on word ninjas gives me more ammo to run down Fleming...

Enjoy Words with Friends!


Cartoon Credit: Penny Arcade Inc. via @jeffhilimire.

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