The New Sudoku?

In the past two years, Sudoku has revolutionized the puzzle industry. But before Sudoku was published in The Times of London in 2004, and soon after began appearing in newspapers and books in the U.S., mainstream America was never so hungry for a logic game. The puzzle, which originated in Japan in 1984 by creator Maki Kaji and his puzzle company Nikoli, has become a widespread trend of today's popular culture. Whatever the reason for Sudoku's appeal — it doesn't require knowledge of vocabulary, or even math — publishers want to expand on the puzzle's success by bringing a new game to the public.

But will America embrace a new puzzle in the way it did Sudoku? Much of this depends on where Nikoli, which has created a number of subsequent puzzles similar to Sudoku in Japan, will take the trend. While Wayne Gould, a New Zealander who found the game in a Tokyo bookstore, is responsible for making it an international sensation by persuading the London Times to publish it, all eyes are on Kaji and his Japanese puzzle company. In a recent New York Times article on the history behind the Sudoku craze, it was reported that when Kaji visited New York in December, he was bombarded by publishers asking for a new puzzle to start the next big thing for the industry.

The newest craze might be arriving sooner than you think. According to the Times, Kaji is already in negotiations with American publishers to bring several new puzzles to the U.S. — one such possibility is called Slitherlink, a game where lines are connected in shapes around numbers and has already gained popularity in Japan. Sudoku was a stand-alone sensation, a hit that took off with virtually no marketing or grand announcement. Now Kaji wants to promote his newest puzzles in the states in hopes that it will get the same response as Sudoku. Will it work?

Does Sudoku have enough of a lifespan to keep thriving, or will it soon become just another fad of our culture, edged out by the newest puzzle to captivate Americans?

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  • M. Sheron

    I love the game. I started a competition among co-workers and everyone is playing. The person that finishes first has bragging rights until the next day. It has done more for morale than the free lunches and the weekly pep talks. Because it does not require math or vocabulary skills everyone plays and the field is level. Will the new games be able to do this? Who knows.

  • Jill Burke

    It will stay. It has to, I'm an addict. I find it has a very calming effect on my anxiety. I keep a book in my purse.

    I also find that Mah Jong Tiles on MSN Games has a very calming effect. I get most of my critical thinking done while playing it and listening to my I-Pod.

  • charles

    I agree with Dan, sudoku is here to stay, just like the crossword puzzle still appears every day. Sudoku, however, does nothing to teach even fundamental math skills, (except maybe number recognition), but it does exercise logic skills.
    As I understand it, sudoku was developed to provide a puzzle similar to a crossword puzzle to a culture whose written language is character based, and therefore not easily adapted to a crossword. Part of it's appeal, I think, is the absolute simplicity of the rules.
    I'm not sure a new type of puzzle would have that same appeal, unless it had the same kind of simplicity, and also provided the same kind of challenge.
    Sudoku was designed to provide a challenge, and because it did, it made a lot of publishers a lot of money.
    If the next puzzle puts the "get rich" goal in front of the "provide a challenge" goal, it won't work.

  • Dan Seidman

    Sudoku is here to stay. It is played by every age group and teaches great math and logic skills - a deficiency that sadly our society suffers from, especially in today's kids.

    There are also some conceptual parallels between sudoku and both selling and running a business.

    Successful sales pros, entrepreneurs and executives know that a systematic approach to operating their professional lives is the surest way to success. For some simple proof, look at the difference between a standalone startup and a franchise. A franchise, a proven system, is almost three times as likely to succeed.

    Note my blog post for thoughts on sudoku's relevance to selling: