Word games are all the rage at the moment. Whether that's classics like Scrabble or new staples like Wordle, the word game genre is one that remains evergreen in both physical and digital formats. However, that doesn’t stop new games and new studios from pushing into the space, with one of them being 1TON Games and their title Addagrams.
You may remember Addagrams being the winner of our Big Indie Pitch at PGC Toronto 2022, where the award was presented to CEO Noah Rosenfield. In the wake of Addagram’s release we caught up with Noah to find out what inspired the game and his views on the current state of word games, and how 1TON Games went about promoting the title.
PocketGamer.biz: Why do you think word games like Addagrams are proving popular with players?
Noah Rosenfield: To be honest I haven’t really seen a word game like Addagrams – which was kind of our intention – and I think players are ready for something new and different. The word puzzle genre has a lot of “fill in the blank” style play where players are given hints and have to find the hidden answer. It’s entertaining, but restrictive; it literally boxes you in. I feel players are getting tired of guessing at answers that someone else decided for them. They're looking for a puzzle with more freedom and more play. Addagrams has that.
Do you think the word game genre is getting the attention it deserves from publishers and investors?
The word game genre is incredibly competitive and saturated which makes it a bit of a non-starter a lot of the time. The incumbents are very well established and taking on the giants of the genre is both difficult and risky. Hopefully some of the recent breakout hits have demonstrated that there’s still plenty of demand and room for the right idea. Particularly if you can offer educational value as well as entertainment. I think that’s an area where people are eager to see improvement. People enjoy investing in the betterment of themselves and their loved ones, so investors should be interested in enabling that.
What do you think is key in creating a good word game?
For us, the key was to do something wildly different by examining a core skill behind many word games and puzzles: anagramming. 99% of anagram-based puzzles I see are built on the same foundation. They give the player a handful of letters and have them make every word possible. Then they usually take that and constrain it a bit. Text Twist uses a time limit. Spelling Bee uses a required “middle" letter. WordScapes uses a grid. But the player’s job is always the same: check items off the list by finding everything possible. Every word you find shrinks the correct answers remaining. It’s a bit exhausting. And as a game mechanic, a bit exhausted.
Addagrams was designed specifically to go the opposite direction by removing constraints. We allow the player to use the letters they want to make the words they want. Every letter is worth an equal number of points, so every answer is equally valuable. Every answer you give grows the number of options available to you in the next round. The challenge comes in trying to find one of many possible answers, remembering old ones and discovering new ones as the puzzle grows.
What’s your experience been like, promoting Addagrams? Do you think that one platform for promotion has been key compared to others?
For any game, and especially indies, organic growth is really important. I get a lot of friends sending me screenshots of their funny word pairs. Yesterday I got sent “COD SNIPING” and was in tears over the followup comment: “Harder than shooting fish in a barrel.”
The game is really well suited for that kind of UGC so we're working out how to help players share their creations in a more public, growth-oriented way. Humour can be very personal and subjective so there are challenges, but I think we’re getting there.
My personal favourite is Instagram. Adding stickers and music that play up the imagined meanings of my word pairs feels like a continuation of the creativity that Addagrams aims to deliver.
When we saw you at PGC London 2023 we couldn’t help but notice you were sporting a Scrabble hat bearing the words “Wordle Sucks”…
Well, technically it’s an Addagrams™ hat - note the lack of point values on the tiles.
The hat has been a great conversation starter and a bit of a rallying flag. I get a lot of comments from people who are firmly on the “Yeah, Wordle sucks!” side. Sometimes from a gaming perspective, sometimes from a cultural one - or countercultural one more accurately.
For me personally, it’s wholly in the spirit of friendly - and aspirational - competition. The New York Times is quite the institution, especially here in NYC, so it feels very much like a David vs. Goliath situation. But we’re aiming high and I’ll put Addagrams toe-to-toe against Wordle any day. “Better than Wordle” is one of the highest compliments we get.