The under-served Facebook crossword puzzle genre gets a huge addition today with Crosswords from new social game developer PuzzleSocial. Through licensing agreements, the developer has secured many of the top crossword puzzle constructors in the United States to supply the game with new content daily.
Speaking to Inside Social Games, PuzzleSocial founder and crossword enthusiast Jeb Balise explains that though there are 50 million people in the U.S. that solve at least one crossword puzzle per week, only about 50 to 60 people are responsible for creating that content (we call them “constructors”). Fourteen months ago, he founded PuzzleSocial with the intent to create a crossword puzzle social game; in the last six months, he’s been able to secure the rights to constructors’ puzzles that appear in nearly all the major newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Incidentally, Balise says that many of the constructors and top competitive players featured in the 2006 documentary film “Wordplay” are also featured in the game. Bios for each of the puzzle constructors are available from the game’s main menu.
Crosswords is launching with two game types, two game modes, and four types of crossword puzzle that are updated daily. The game types are Singles or Doubles, where players complete the puzzle alone or with a friend. The modes are “for fun” or “for stats” where players can choose whether or not to rank their performance in solving a puzzle (speed, accuracy, etc.). Lastly, the puzzle types are divided by Newsday (the puzzles that appear in daily newspapers), A.V. Onion Club (which appear in the humor publication), CrosSynergy (which runs in the Washington Post), and a proprietary type called Celebrity where each of the daily puzzles is relevant to a piece of celebrity news gossip circulated that week. Each type gets new puzzles daily.
While playing Singles or Doubles in any of the daily puzzles, players can choose to receive word hints, reveal solutions for individual words, toggle a red-text “wrong” hint that shows players when a letter is incorrect, or reveal the entire board solution. All of these tools are provided for free, and players can even print PDFs of the puzzles to play with more traditional pen-and-paper. In Doubles, players are both playing the same puzzle in real time with each filling in words in their own time with no tracked score (although statistics will be counted if playing Doubles in stats mode).
Crosswords also features tournament and head-to-head competition play, which is one of the ways in which Crosswords monetizes. Players are given a certain number of “puzzle tokens” to spend on entering tourneys or creating head-to-head matches; additional tokens can be purchased with Facebook Credits. While in tourney mode or a head-to-head match, players are graded on speed and accuracy and do not have access to some of the puzzle-assisting tools available in the non-competitive modes. Head-to-head does lock correct words in place so that players cannot write over another player’s correct answer.
Scores also fluctuate in the competitive modes consistent with real life crossword competitions, where a correct answer is 1 point and an incorrect answer is -1 point. Taking a hint from Tetris Battle, Crosswords features a changeable level system where player can move up or down levels depending on their performance in tourneys or head-to-head. This determines which tourneys a player can enter, although in the future, head-to-head mode will allow players to challenge their friends at any difficulty level.
The second key way in which Crosswords monetizes is through ads. An integration with MediaBrix‘s ad platform allows the game to show players display or video ads just after completing a puzzle, similar to what Zynga is doing in Words With Friends. Viral mechanics include earning puzzle tokens for inviting friends to the game, and an “Add Friend” button that allows players to add strangers that they meet in tournaments or head-to-head mode to their Facebook friends list.
Crosswords launches on Facebook today. Developer PuzzleSocial currently has around 10 people on staff and is in the process of raising a first round of funding.