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Thousands play Wordle-like word game inspired by old French TV show

The daily wordplay challenge, Sutom, is an homage to an old game show called Motus and now regional French language variations are gaining popularity

Motchus French word game

Sotum and the Marseille dialect game, Motchus (pictured), use a similar premise to Wordle Pic: Lola Hakimian

Hundreds of thousands of French people are scratching their heads every day in search of words as several popular games taking inspiration from an American counterpart are taking France by storm.

Game show on-air for 30 years

Its most popular attracts 300,000 people every day and is called Sutom, the reverse spelling of the France Télévisions-owned TV show ‘Motus’ that broadcasted for nearly 30 years and worked on the similar idea. 

People have flooded social media with their score, helping the game nurture a healthy competition and grow in popularity. 

It eventually convinced others to benefit from Sutom’s success and launch their own game with regional or semantic variations.

Broadcaster now supports game

The popularity of Sutom caught both his creator off-guard and the attention of France Télévisions, which decided to work hand-in-hand with his creator in a backpedalling decision triggered by massive complaints from players after the company had originally asked him to change name.

But it also helped other games piggyback on the idea such as Motchus, a similar game focused on regional words spoken in southern France, and Cémantix, another giving semantic hints to help you find the word.

It connects players

Sutom was created on January 8 by Jonathan Magano, a 30-year-old computer engineer, as a direct inspiration from Wordle, a similar game that originated in the United States and was bought for an undisclosed low seven-figures amount by the New York Times after it gained huge popularity.

“It spread like wildfire,” said Mr Magano, explaining the retweets on Twitter created a “snowball effect” that helped him reach a monumental number in a matter of days. 

300,000 French people are reported to play every day.

Mr Magano said he has received countless messages of people telling the game helped them reconnect with a forgotten parent or friend or that it turned into a healthy competition between employees in some companies. 

Sutom rules

The website provides a blank grid from which gamers have up to six tries to find the word of the day, helped by a system of colour that indicates whether a letter is correctly or incorrectly placed.

After every try, the game indicates with a red colour when a letter is correctly placed, a yellow when a letter is contained within the word but misplaced and no colour when the letter is not part of the word. 

The website provides a screenshot of your session and calculates your score, a feature that people use to post on social media and that helped spread the word. 

300,000 French people are reported to play every day.

‘A beautiful tribute’

The game is familiar to French people since it plays around various distinctive characteristics of Motus, a TV show from public-service France Télévisions that broadcast on weekdays from June 25, 1990 to August 31, 2019 from 10:55 to 11:30. 

Motus required team players to find a 10-letter long word in six tries with a similar helping colour system. 

“It is a beautiful tribute, a beautiful honour,” Thierry Béccaro, the historic presenter of Motus, told French TV show C à vous

Linguist creates Marseille version

Mr Magano left his work as an open source project, meaning anyone could use the mechanism of the game freely. 

“I thought it would be nice to have our own version,” said Médéric Gasquet-Cyrus, a linguistic professor at the University of Aix-Marseille, adding the idea sprouted after several of his friends told him they were typing typical words from Marseille.

He and mathematician professor Denis Beaubiat created Motchus, a version centred on words originating from Marseille, in four hours before launching a website in less than 24 hours. 

The game tally is now up to 1,600 words.

New versions welcome

Motchus counts 15,000 players a day with notable figures such as Marseille mayor’s Benoît Payan, Mr Gasquet-Cyrus told The Connexion, adding he notices spikes in connection on the website around midnight when the new word is revealed.

Motchus offers the definition of the word from yesterday to help players who have not found the word of the day, a singular feature distancing him from Sutom. 

“I am amazed at how many people have taken on my idea and created their own version. It’s very rewarding,” said Mr Magano.

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