Recently, Blizzard announced that it was adding new heroes to its extremely popular game Hearthstone, all for the low, low cost of $9.99 apiece!
To be clear, there is a huge, glaring problem with this announcement — but it’s not in the heroes themselves. They’re just a cosmetic upgrade, after all. While many have clamored for new classes with unique hero powers, this is different. This is just a new portrait, new quotes, new animations — nothing that affects gameplay in any way.
It’s actually a neat option, and the perfect way for Blizzard to make some extra money. If you’re not interested in these type of upgrades, your choice is simple: don’t buy it.
So where’s the problem? Blizzard’s timing. Announcing this new development while Hearthstone is a stagnant, imbalanced mess screams “cash grab” whether or not it’s true.
Depending on how familiar you are with Hearthstone, you may or may not be aware of the litany of problems with it right now. It’s a shame, too, because hidden behind a slew of mistaken design choices and faulty new user experiences is an excellent, beautiful game.
Here’s a short primer, from minor to major:
- The card Dr. Boom, a 7/7 for 7 mana that also spawns two 1/1 Boom Bots that explode for 1-4 damage when killed, is too strong — to the point where it’s featured in nearly every single deck. This goes against one of Blizzard’s core design principles, trying to avoid so-called “staples,” or cards that are so standard that they circumvent deck-building because you just automatically toss them into everything.
- Game modes have remain largely unchanged since launch. There’s a standard ladder system and casual play (more on those later), an arena (ditto), and…that’s about it. Fans have started trying to set up bootleg tournaments in lieu of a proper mode. Considering the popular weekly tournaments that feature a best-of-five mechanic, you’d think this would be smart to implement.
- The aforementioned arena mode has become an unrewarding mess, forcing players to receive card packs from only the newest expansion — even if they already own every card from that set. A simple choice between old and new packs would make quite a few players happy, but according to Blizzard, that would be too complicated for the user interface and new people would get confused.
- Almost a year into the game’s launch, you can still only build nine decks at a time. This means that you’re stuck with one of two options: building what you want, but not being able to have a deck for each of the nine classes; or having a deck for each class to do the daily quests, but not being able to have creative, flexible options. This is especially punishing (again) to players who own most or all of the cards and have a ton of options at their disposal.
- And finally, the game is a dumpster fire for new players. Because there are no rewards in the ladder system for anything between rank 1 and rank 20, many seasoned players sit at the bottom levels to farm for golden hero portraits or daily quests. Are you a new user with barely any cards? Good luck beating this guy with a six-legendary top-tier deck that he took from a website! What’s worse, because of this proliferation in ranked play, tons of overpowered decks populate casual play too. There’s no area where rookies can play except in ranks 21-25, which quickly spits you into the 20+ zone because you can only move up, not down, at those levels.
Blizzard says that the user interface should be kept simple so new players can understand — then introduces a way to complicate those systems that exists solely for profit. You’re telling me that players can click on one of the nine heroes and select an alternate portrait to use, but not click on a hero and choose between more than one deck? Or between two booster packs for arena rewards? That’s bullshit.
And if the game is supposed to be catered more toward new players, why has nothing been done to correct the horrible imbalances created by a ladder system that incentivizes making it to legend or NOT BOTHERING AT ALL?
This means one of two things: either the Blizzard developers working on Hearthstone are naive and stupid, or only interested in profit. How else can you explain an announcement like this when some of these issues have been going on for months?
If the company is content making money hand over fist from whales who will sink hundreds of dollars into the game from the beginning, so be it. That’s their prerogative. But to steal a line from CM Punk, that’s an example of millionaires who should be billionaires. Why turn away your most devoted player base, who would spend more over the long run anyway?
It’s disappointing, because again, the game is great. The playing fields are gorgeous, the mechanics are solid and easy to understand, and the cards (as a whole) have been painstakingly designed to make almost all of them viable in some way. Compare this online card game to the best that Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic the Gathering have managed, and it’s not even close.
But as long as Blizzard continues to be myopic in regards to its players’ wishes, Hearthstone will be a shell of its potential.
2 thoughts on “Why Hearthstone’s New Hero Skins Are a Slap in the Face”
The new skins are way too expensive. Thankfully not getting them won’t affect your chances of winning. Only having 9 deck slots is frustrating and their excuse of keeping things simple is weak. I wouldn’t be surprised if they charge for more deck slots in the future.
It’s pretty disappointing. The game started out so well, but the quality-of-life hasn’t kept with the influx of new things they can feel the need to charge people for. I feel like these types of F2P experiences need a guaranteed, 100% free super patch with bonus content, big bug fixes, and new features. You know, so I know my money isn’t just going into a vault of cash to be spent on some other F2P cash grab game instead of toward the one I paid to support.