Apple has started removing clones of popular game Wordle from its App Store amid a backlash against their creators.
The Cupertino-based tech giant confirmed to Bloomberg it had removed several knockoffs of the game that's currently only web-based.
The guessing game, which offers a new puzzle once a day, was created by former Reddit software engineer Josh Wardle to entertain his puzzle-loving partner.
Each day players are given six chances to guess the secret word, which has five letters. The aim is to figure out the word in the fewest guesses, with coloured codes offering clues to letters and their position in the word.
According to The Guardian, there were only 90 daily players in November, but that had risen to 300,000 by the beginning of January. By last weekend that had risen to 2 million as the game continues to go viral on social media.
And Aotearoa has played a very big part in that popularity according to the paper and Wardle.
"The game really took off when one user in New Zealand (where the game is especially popular) displayed her results in a sequence of emojis on Twitter, prompting Wardle to build a function that would allow users to share theirs more easily," the report said.
One of the creators widely criticised for cloning Wordle was Zack Shakked.
He boasted on Twitter about how many people were downloading his game and how much money he could make from it.
"We're going to the f**king moon," he wrote.
But the backlash from angry fans forced him to lock his account before releasing an apology of sorts.
"This was the perfect storm to publicly crucify me for something that is common. In a week my app would've looked totally different and had way more functionality beyond what original dude did," he wrote.
"I realise I crossed a line. And I surely, surely will never do anything remotely close to this again. I f**ked up."
A lot of people were furious that Shakked was charging a US$30 subscription fee for full access to the game, something Shakked disagreed with.
"Getting mad that I charged a US$30 subscription that 1000s of people were willing to pay is just bananas. This is how businesses work. You charge money. If it's too much, people won't pay,' he wrote.
Shakked then revealed he'd reached out to Wardle directly.
"One thing people don't realise is I spoke on the phone with the creator of Wordle and for 30 minutes tried to convince him to a) let me pay a huge licensing fee (100k+), b) partner with me to develop the office Wordle app or c) send him a percentage of the proceeds," he wrote.
"When he informed me that he wasn't interested in that, I told him I would consider changing the name and was looking at other options when Apple removed the app and was fully prepared to do so."
However, doubts about Shakked's sincerity are understandable.
He has appealed Apple's decision to remove his application and said he could consider buying Apple Search Ads slot for the keyword 'wordle' to get a new app trending. That has also attracted a backlash.
"I don't think people realise, I can ride on the coattails of someone else's success and make a quick buck without also stealing the other guy's app name," one critic wrote.
"I don't think you realise why people are criticising you, it's not if you were legally allowed to do it, but whether it was moral, and whether this is the right response. And I don't think you realise that the more you exhibit this arrogant attitude the more people will hate," another tweeted.