Back in March, we broke the news that LinkedIn — the social network for the world of work — was quietly testing the waters for games on its platform, word and logic puzzles similar to Wordle. Now, in an effort to bring more users and engagement to LinkedIn, three of those games are launching officially. Queens, Crossclimb and Pinpoint — respectively testing your abilities in logic, trivia and word association — will be available globally starting today, starting first in English only, both via a direct link to the games and by way of LinkedIn News — the division that developed the games.

Available to be played just one time a day each, for now, only first-degree connections — not followers — can be invited to play alongside each other. Your status — whether or not you’ve played a game, and how you did on it — can only be shared with those connections, and only if you opt in to do so. Those social levers, as well as the number of games, are still up for discussion so might change over time. For now, LinkedIn plans to continue developing the games itself, independent of its owner Microsoft and its own substantial gaming operation.

LinkedIn says that it sees the games as a more casual way to knit existing LinkedIn connections closer together.

“It is hard for people to stay in touch with each other, and games provide a way of build these network ties,” said Dan Roth, the VP and editor in chief of LinkedIn News, in an interview.

But there is more to it than that. The fact that these were conceived of and built by the LinkedIn News team is significant. LinkedIn’s games borrow heavily from what newspapers like The New York Times have built with their own word and logic games over the years, starting with crosswords but more recently expanding into a wider range of puzzles mostly built in-house but occasionally also by way of acquisition (NYT acquired the viral hit Wordle in 2022).

And, at a time when news publishers are scrambling to figure out what the future of their businesses look like in a world where AI is giving users direct answers to specific questions; TikTok and Instagram appear to be cornering the market for younger users (who are typically not readers but viewers); and search and social platforms are just not what they used to be as referral engines, games have proven to be something of a secret weapon.

Puzzles published by news titles and magazines attract millions of users, which in turn become part of those title’s wider audiences in and of themselves, and potentially to become readers of the rest of their content.

Similarly, LinkedIn — which now has more than 1 billion users — has been developing its news and wider content operation to expand engagement on its platform. Like newspapers, it too has a substantial advertising business as well as paywalls for those who want to use it a bit more. Games sweeten the deal for extending that engagement to beef up its advertising audience, and to potentially give more value to LinkedIn overall as a platform to users.

A little about the three games:

Image Credits: (opens in a new window) under a license.

LinkedIn’s Queens is a riff on Sudoku, where you have to figure out how to arrange crowns in patterns that do not overlap with each other. The games are time-based and as you can see from the screenshot, while you might be able to share scores with individuals, your company affiliation appears on a leaderboard.  I asked if this could become problematic, distracting, given the restrictions some organizations put on using social media at work. Laura Lorenzetti, executive editor for LinkedIn in North America, said the one-game-per-day limitation, and the fact that the games are short, should help with those issues. “They are contained and they’re intended to be contained because we don’t want people wasting their time,” she said. “That is not what we’re here for!”

Crossclimb is described as a trivia game: the player is given clues for words, which in turn have to fit on a grid where the words change by one letter with each subsequent clue to eventually form a different word. I found this one, in my playing, to be harder than it looks if you don’t guess the first word for a start. (Another player countered that it was her favorite.) As with Queens, you see a company leaderboard to measure how other organizations are playing.

Lastly there is Pinpoint, which appeared so similar to Connections — a New York Times game — that I kept slipping up and calling it connections during my interview. This involves finding a connection between words that you’re given, although the words are not immediately revealed and you are asked to try to find the connection in as few reveals as possible. Also quite difficult on my early attempts.

As we’ve noted previously, LinkedIn is far from being the first social networks to build gaming into its platform to increase time spent on the platform. But even the biggest and most costly efforts have seen mixed results. Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, has been a major driver of social gaming over the years. But in 2022 it shut down its standalone gaming app amid a decline in usage: it’s putting significantly more focus these days on mixed reality experiences and its Meta Quest business.

LinkedIn — designed for professional networking and specifically for job hunting and recruitment — has long been trying to find ways to get people to engage on its platform in more natural and less transactional ways. Games are transactional by nature, but the transactions are based on gameplay: if LinkedIn can get users hooked on these, the hope is that they may well stay for more.

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