Blizzard Entertainment isn’t known for making content quickly. It has never been able to keep World of Warcraft stocked with fresh content. The StarCraft community was starved for 12 years. Diablo III’s been a bit better, but again, a huge wait between games/expansions. Those were all AAA core franchises. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and Heroes of the Storm have been pleasant surprises. These more accessible titles have seen repeated rounds of content, such as two Hearthstone expansions and Solo Adventures, and the Eternal Conflict event in HotS. To name but a few. But, and pardon the “they can’t win either way” thought, is Blizzard making content for Hearthstone too fast?
Shaktaji, who is thoroughly an addict, and I, a player who has waning interest for various reasons, were discussing this concern over dinner recently. The obvious node of contention is potential current player burnout. Will players eventually get sick of learning 200+ new cards, how they interact and how they should be used every year? We put that aside quickly since, for many, it’s an expected and addicting part of the game. Then a less obvious point came up. Would the continued increase make the game less accessible over time? As more and more cards are released it becomes more and more difficult for new players to be competitive (a concern for its sister title in the MOBA genre too). Sure, those newbies should be paired up against other newbies but they’ll constantly be playing against cards they haven’t seen before. Will this freak them out or will the freshness interest them until they moved to a level of play with more strategy and thus, more homogeneous decks?
This is exactly why I fell out of Magic: The Gathering and League of Legends. Never to return. I felt so far behind in the knowledge of cards or champions as to make returning a daunting task. Having not played since early Blackrock Mountain, I feel I’m quickly approaching this point in my Hearthstone career.
There’s clearly some balance point to be found. Some point were new content is quick enough to keep the player base entertained, but not so quick as to squash interest or demolish accessibility. I’ve no idea how Magic: The Gathering has successfully sustained itself for 20+ years. Let alone continued to increase its player base, which is now over 20 million. In the end, our discussion is crucial to a game’s survival. After all, the crux is that it hits a game where it hurts, the revenue stream.
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