In 1997, retired Hong Kong judge Wayne Gould, 59, a New Zealander, saw a partly completed puzzle in a Japanese bookshop. Over six years he developed a computer program to produce puzzles quickly. Knowing that British newspapers have a long history of publishing crosswords and other puzzles, he promoted Sudoku to The Times in Britain, which launched it on 12 November 2004 (calling it Su Doku). The first letter to The Times regarding Su Doku was published the following day on 13 November from Ian Payn of Brentford, complaining that the puzzle had caused him to miss his stop on the tube.
The rapid rise of Sudoku in Britain from relative obscurity to a front-page feature in national newspapers attracted commentary in the media and parody (such as when The Guardian's G2 section advertised itself as the first newspaper supplement with a Sudoku grid on every page). Recognizing the different psychological appeals of easy and difficult puzzles, The Times introduced both side by side on 20 June 2005. From July 2005, Channel 4 included a daily Sudoku game in their Teletext service. On 2 August, the BBC's programme guide Radio Times featured a weekly Super Sudoku which features a 16x16 grid.
Even the Greeks owe the publication of their first Sudoku magazine to British influence. It was at Heathrow airport in the middle of 2005 that a Greek computer magazine publisher first laid eyes on a British Sudoku magazine and - realizing the opportunity - proceeded to purchase the necessary software and quickly launch the first local Sudoku magazine, which became an instant success.
In the United States, the first newspaper to publish a Sudoku puzzle by Wayne Gould was The Conway Daily Sun (New Hampshire), in 2004.
The world's first live TV Sudoku show, Sudoku Live, was a puzzle contest first broadcast on 1 July 2005 on Sky One. It was presented by Carol Vorderman. Nine teams of nine players (with one celebrity in each team) representing geographical regions competed to solve a puzzle. Each player had a hand-held device for entering numbers corresponding to answers for four cells. Phil Kollin of Winchelsea, England was the series grand prize winner taking home over £23,000 over a series of games. The audience at home was in a separate interactive competition, which was won by Hannah Withey of Cheshire.
Later in 2005, the BBC launched SUDO-Q, a game show that combines Sudoku with general knowledge. However, it uses only 4x4 and 6x6 puzzles..
In 2006, a Sudoku website published songwriter Peter Levy's Sudoku tribute song, but quickly had to take down the mp3 due to heavy traffic. British and Australian radio picked up the song, which is to feature in a British-made Sudoku documentary. The Japanese Embassy also nominated the song for an award, with Levy doing talks with Sony in Japan to release the song as a single.
Sudoku software is very popular on PCs, websites, and mobile phones. It comes with many distributions of Linux. Software has also been released on video game consoles, such as the Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, the Game Boy Advance, Xbox Live Arcade, several iPod models, and the iPhone. In fact, just two weeks after Apple, Inc. debuted the online App Store within its iTunes store on July 11, 2008, there were already nearly 30 different Sudoku games, created by various software developers, specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch. One of the most popular video games featuring Sudoku is Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!. Critically and commercially well received, it generated particular praise for its Sudoku implementation and sold more than 8 million copies worldwide. Due to its popularity, Nintendo made a second Brain Age game titled Brain Age2, which has over 100 new sudoku puzzles and other activities.
In June 2008 an Australian drugs-related jury trial costing over AU$1 000 000 was aborted when it was discovered that five of the twelve jurors had been playing Sudoku instead of listening to evidence.