When Blizzard first announced they were working on an electronic card game I was completely disinterested. I’m a bit old fashioned in that I prefer my books to be something I can physically hold, that my movie collection be something I can touch as well as showcase, and that if I play a collectible card game (CCG) then I want to actually own real cards that I can sort in a binder. I don’t like the idea that if a company goes belly up some day that all my electronic property disappears.
Also, while Diablo 3 was enjoyable, Blizzard promised a bunch of features like PVP that were never delivered, and fell down pretty badly in the first few days after the release when the servers were highly unstable. Couple that with what were considered some pretty egotistical design statements and gaffes, well, let’s just say I was a giant Blizzard fan boy back in the day, not so much anymore.
Hearthstone also comes after Blizzard announced the end of the World of Warcraft trading card game, which they had supported through twenty one sets from 2005-2013. Apparently the last few sets did well commercially, but I imagine it wouldn’t have been smart to try and push an electronic CCG and a table top trading card game (TCG) at the same time. I’ve played a number of card games in the past, like Doomtown, that ended up losing support, and I hate it every time. I feel like all the time and money I invested is a bit of a waste when that happens. I suppose not every game can be Magic or Pokemon, but this is probably why I’m not a big CCG or TCG player anymore.
All that said, my tune changed drastically after Blizzard began their closed beta. In what could be one of the smartest moves Blizzard has made in recent years, Blizzard started a small contained test run, inviting mostly Twitch.tv streamers and popular Youtube gaming personalities. At first I resisted the urge to watch any of the videos, but after peeking at one or two I was really impressed. Totalbiscuit goes over the basics in his video “WTF is…Hearthstone”.
It could be the nostalgia, it could be the solid gameplay mechanics, but I want this game in the worst possible way now. Honestly, it’s probably a number of factors combined. This time around, unlike larger titles like Starcraft or Diablo, Blizzard went with a smaller team of designers. They devoted the team towards making a simple free to play CCG that with all the thematic flair of the Warcraft universe. While I likely will spend money, I appreciate the ability to acquire resources through game play. That was a major factor in keeping me interested in League of Legends, and it seems they are dedicated to the same sort of model where you don’t necessarily have to “pay to win”.
The game also brings back a lot of my memories from when I used to play World of Warcraft. Lots of familiar faces here, and lots of mechanics in the game that remind you of playing WoW. I nearly have gone and picked up WoW again because watching people play Hearthstone has reminded me of the good times when the game was simpler, the level cap was 60, and Onyxia was actually end game content. I’ve found myself going back and reading old raid boss walkthroughs, and re-reading old lore posts.
Blizzard definitely has a winner here. With all the hype they’ve built up over the game’s release the only ways this could go wrong is if they keep pushing the game’s release back further, or if they fail to put out more content in a timely fashion after the first card set goes stale. I’m already getting a little over it, as I’ve been watching streams and videos for over a month at this point, but I think they’re getting pretty close to an open beta stage.
All in all I will happily admit Blizzard proved me wrong on this one. Weirdly enough, I’ve been wanting a good excuse to pick up an iPad, and apparently Heartstone is set for a cross platform release. I may skip the next generation of consoles and pick up a tablet instead.
- Blizzard hosting a Hearthstone tournament at BlizzCon (polygon.com)
- Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft brings card strategy to the masses (vg247.com)
- Hearthstone Beta (cheeserollpincher.wordpress.com)