The Soapbox: Hearthstone is probably in for another boring year in 2024

    
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I recently got a survey in my email on Hearthstone and its future. The last time a Hearthstone survey got sent out, the idea of a subscription model for the game wasn’t received super well. It prompted me to wrote a series of articles on the differences between monetizing a computer card game and a physical TCG in which I argued that a subscription model for Hearthstone could be a better way to get more player engagement outside of battlegrounds.

And I’m honestly still open to the idea, but I didn’t really play much Hearthstone in 2023, and I don’t really have plans to play it this year unless Blizzard releases a new dungeon run mode a la Kobolds and Catacombs. Despite that, I still keep it on all my main devices, I even have it installed on my work computer! I keep it updated, ready to play just in case I’m ever in the mood for some card slinging. It’s my solitaire. Even though there are better options out there, Legends of Runeterra being one of them,¬†Hearthstone is still a solid choice for a trading card game.

I care about Hearthstone, even though my play interest has dwindled. It’s got a special place in my heart, even if it doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies of simpler times like Heroes of Might and Magic 3 does. Instead, it reminds me of some of my most challenging times in my life. Hearthstone was my comfort game when I started teaching and major life shifts in my life were taking place for me. It was a tough time, and Hearthstone was the game I played.

So when I answered the survey, I took it seriously. It didn’t really pose any wild questions like last year’s, but I wanted to take a look at a few of the standout questions from the survey here. I try not to look too deep into the questions, but hey, maybe we can glean something from this survey and do a little speculating.

The survey questions

Most of the questions in this survey were what I would consider pretty mundane. Blizzard asked if I played other games within the TCG/CCG genre including Legends of Runeterra, Magic The Gathering¬†(physical and Arena), and Gwent. The first standout question for me was whether I’d recommend Hearthstone to a friend using a 10 point scale – 0 being unlikely,¬† and 10 being very likely. I gave it a 7. I wouldn’t outright shill for it, but I would encourage everyone to give the game a shot and see if you like it.

Another one of the questions that stood out was “Which of the following best describes how you feel about Hearthstone?” Answers included “On its way down,” “Holding ground,” and “On its way up.” I answered “Holding ground.” Battlegrounds is a great mode, and people still play it. I wouldn’t exactly say things are on their way up either.

There were a few questions related to my purchasing decisions when it came to the Hearthstone bundles. This included the Tavern pass, the 60-pack pre-purchase bundle, and the mega pack. I naturally said no to all of them because I didn’t drop any serious money on Hearthstone this year; the follow-up question asked why not. I clicked on “They cost too much” and “Bought one in previous expansions and didn’t think it was worth it.” I also clicked on “I don’t play the standard game mode as much.” I think the biggest reason was that I don’t really play standard right now. When it comes to TCGs, I tend to buy into one expansion and play for the lifetime of that expansion, usually sticking to one deck that I enjoy playing.

The last questions were related to the games features and which ones stood out for me. Considering how Blizzard will be sunsetting the Duels mode soon, I homed in on this question as I know data points like these can decide which features get more attention in the coming year (spoiler alert: It’ll be battlegrounds). They’ve been pretty clear that duels is getting the axe because that team will be going into battlegrounds. I’m wondering what this data can be applied to as well. It could be anything. One of our writers jokingly quipped, “Blizzard: so how much can we delete without your quitting” when I shared some of the questions in our work chat [Editor’s note: Guilty! -Bree]. It could also be “what will we need to kill so you will play battlegrounds?”

Speculation

We can go crazy with conspiracy theories on this survey, but I’m pretty sure the answer is much more boring than anything. The Hearthstone team is probably figuring out how it can better monetize the game and where resources should be reallocated. I know there’s a lot of frustration on Reddit about Duels getting the axe, but I promise, even Blizzard isn’t deleting popular content to spite you personally. I’m sure the data from past surveys informed the decision to remove it. Myself, I never touched it, and I’m not sure it was as popular as fans think it was. Considering the line of questioning, I think this year the Hearthstone team will be deciding which modes that aren’t battleground and standard should get extra development resources or the axe. As much as I’d love to see another dungeon run mode in the same vein as Kobolds and Catacombs, this survey doesn’t reveal any plans that the team is considering it.

I’m guessing that instead, we’ll be seeing more improvements to battlegrounds with another monetization scheme for the mode. I’m certainly curious whether we’ll hear anything regarding a subscription model, too; I’d like to know the response to that, as I still think a subscription model option would be something I’d really like to have in the game. A $20 buy-in for a month of access to all the cards in the current expansion so I can compete in the standard ladder is something I would go for. I wouldn’t have to spend so much time agonizing over the $70 purchase that wasn’t enough to complete my control deck; I could just… play.

But overall, my takeaway from the survey is that there won’t be much going on with Hearthstone in 2024. It’s a 10-year-old game undergoing layoffs and mode sunsets. At this point, just based on the survey alone, Blizzard is clearly focused on merely keeping the game chugging along and maintaining its playerbase. Don’t expect hype and excitement any time soon.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively OP writers as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews (and not necessarily shared across the staff). Think we’re spot on — or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!
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