linkedin games

LinkedIn’s new games are very fun

I almost didn’t get Pinpoint this morning. Here’s what it taught me about B2B sales.

I’m kidding! But I have to admit something: I’ve been going on LinkedIn every day recently, and I’m having a great time. Last week, the company announced it was adding three games to its app, both on desktop and mobile, as a naked engagement ploy to get you to open the app every day. I hate to say this, but it’s working.

The three games are called PinpointCrossclimb, and QueensPinpoint is basically The New York Times’ Connections game but in reverse: the game gives you items, and you have to guess the category. Crossclimb is like the Times’ mini crossword, with a twist that you then have to rearrange the answers into a word ladder. And Queens, my favorite of the three games — and probably the hardest, too — is sort of a Minesweeper-y take on sudoku in which you have to place a queen in each row, column, and color without overlapping. (It’s remarkable, and almost shameless, how closely LinkedIn follows the Times’ formula. Give it a few weeks, and I’m sure there’ll be a twist on Wordle and a full crossword puzzle in here somewhere.)

Three screenshots of games on LinkedIn.
The three LinkedIn games — Queens, in the middle, is the hardest. Image: David Pierce / The Verge

You can play all three games in 10 minutes or so, and they scratch the exact same daily itch that the Times’ game cycle does. None of them are hard, really, though there have been days where the Pinpoint categories seem particularly esoteric or my pre-coffee brain just can’t handle Queens. But before I realized it, I was coming back to all three games every day.

I don’t love that my morning routine now involves opening LinkedIn — there’s a direct link that gets you right to the games, which helps — but it’s a pretty smart move for the company. The Times’ bet on gaming has paid off in a big way: the company’s chief product officer, Alex Hardiman, told Vanity Fair last year that “a lot of people are actually buying the bundle through our Games product.” (That Vanity Fair story also references a joke you hear a lot in media circles these days: that the Times is a cooking and crosswords company with a side hustle in news.) The Times just opened up the Wordle archive, giving people even more stuff to play, and said that the game is still played by “tens of millions of players every week.” Give people a fun, repeatable game with a leaderboard and a streak tracker, and they’ll come back.

Give people a fun, repeatable game with a leaderboard and a streak tracker, and they’ll come back

Getting people to come back is crucial for LinkedIn, which is trying to become more than just “the place you go to look for jobs.” The Microsoft-owned company wants badly to be a full-on social network: it has tried to be more like TikTok, got big into live audio in that brief moment when everyone was big into live audio, tried to make LinkedIn stories a thing, and continues to shift the product around posts and news feeds rather than just boring old job listings.

It’s all a bit cringeworthy, but it’s working. Microsoft reported in April that LinkedIn’s revenue was up 10 percent year over year, and CEO Satya Nadella said that engagement on LinkedIn was at a record high this past quarter. If getting people to play games and network with semi-random connections about their scores keeps people on LinkedIn longer, you can bet there will be more. And then there will probably be some weird things about recruiters ruling people out based on their Crossclimb score. I don’t know, it’ll get weird. It’s LinkedIn.

So, begrudgingly, kudos to LinkedIn for getting me hooked. I just have one request, though: can we not all do the thing where we share our scores? Those colored blocks were a huge part of how Wordle went viral, but nobody needs that. Especially not on LinkedIn. I’ve got broetry to read.

Correction, May 9th: This story originally referred to the NYT game Connections as “Categories.” It is called Connections, and it’s great.

Spring Sale 2020

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