Words With Friends worldwide outage comes as competitor Ruzzle gains notoriety

Those addicted to the online scrabble-inspired game Words With Friends were in for a shock today as technical issues made the game unplayable, spinning incessantly as it tried and failed to load their in-progress games. The worldwide outage for WWF and other Zynga games has lasted the better part of the day, and comes at a time when upstart competing online word game Ruzzle has been gaining in popularity. Today’s outage comes as some WWF users have been complaining of changes to the interface which allow users to pay for assistance (read: cheat) and have been easy to activate by accident and then suspiciously difficult to dismiss. This shift in revenue strategy by Zynga may be a result of the fact that it offers its mobile app for devices like iPhone and Android in two forms, a free ad-supported version and a pay-for version which is ad free. The latter means that users are of no further revenue to Zynga once the app purchase is made, even as their continued gameplay costs the company money in terms of bandwidth. It’s not clear whether the shift in sentiment toward WWF and massive Zynga outage is a condemnation of the viability of such games in general, or merely a condemnation of Zynga itself…

Zynga’s online titles like Farmville have been based on the idea that if users are encouraged to play addicting games for free, they can then be monetized either via ad displays or by allowing them to advance within the game by making in-app purchases. Farmville allowed the purchase of coins which could then be used to “purchase” virtual farm items. Words With Friends surfaced as a mobile app, with social gameplay: your opponents could be anyone from your Facebook friend to someone random, but they’re all from the real world. While many non-technical users mistakenly believe the games are taking place on their phone, the games are actually housed on Zynga’s servers and are merely updated locally each time a user launches the app. Even if their app and their cellular data network are working just fine, an outage on the servers means no one can play. It remains to be seen as to whether today’s massive outage merely forced users to go for a walk, or whether they’ve decided to use the opportunity to check out the much hyped competitor Ruzzle…

“Ruzzle” has been a consistent trending topic on Twitter this month, as new users name-check it so often that it ends up trending without a specific news spike. Unlike Words With Friends, which is very closely based on the classic game of Scrabble, Ruzzle uses an entirely different format in which users must find as many words as they can within a grid of random letters within a two minute period. That vastly different format may or may not appeal to disgruntled WWF users who’ve been frozen out of their favorite game today. However, Ruzzle does have one advantage for now: it’s not yet to overwhelmingly popular so as to make its servers crash.

Will Stabley
Will Stabley is the Founder and Senior Editor of Stabley Times.
Will Stabley


  1. mike3k on January 15, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    I like Letterpress.

  2. mike3k on January 15, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    I like Letterpress.

  3. GazpachoRob on January 25, 2013 at 5:14 am

    Ruzzle & Lettepress have been much more enjoyable games with far stabler platforms than Words With Friends or Scramble With Friends (which is very much like Ruzzle).
    For me, WWF stopped working on my iPhone 4S during the same week that Zynga started renegotiating their contract with Facebook. WWF would crash about 30-45 seconds after loading, almost every time. I think they were trying to drive mobile users back to Facebook to make that contract more lucrative. Just ended up pushing me to try new games, and delete all my Zynga games.