Nearly two years after release Hearthstone is running into the wall a lot of physical card games always hit, the balance between old and new. Hearthstone needs to keep it’s competitive and serious players happy, especially with Esports growing so much, but it also needs to entice new players to the game. Not only do new players mean a continually growing and passionate community, it hopefully means more money as well. If you’re like me your Hearthstone play has dropped off since the initial release and every time I do dive back in I need a moment to explore the new cards and modes. The game has rapidly been changing and updating itself and now Blizzard wants to update it again.
Later this year Hearthstone will be adding on a new expansion to the game, and with it will come formats. Most trading card games have formats, a way to divide competitive play away from more casual play. Hearthstone will have a wild and standard formats. Wild will allow cards from any expansion, any adventure, and will resemble what Hearthstone is right now. It’s an anything goes format that encourages fun, creativity, and game breaking combinations. Standard however will only allow cards from the basic, original, set and add-ons from only the previous two years. Even when it’s introduced standard won’t allow any cards from either the Goblins vs. Gnomes or the Curse of Naxxramas sets. Each format will have their own separate ranked and casual modes and essentially splits the community up between competitive players looking for a specific balance and fairness from the game and those of us who use the shiny cards because they look pretty.
Blizzard is also changing how some of these sets and cards will be purchased. Some will be rotated out of play and won’t be available to be bought with any form of in-game money. Some sets may be purchased again some day and some could be crafted. Blizzard is hoping to avoid confusion among new players who might download and play Hearthstone only to be met by a wave of sets and expansions they might assume need to be bought. Hearthstone is also adding deck slots, doubling the current number from nine to eighteen.
Hearthstone is growing up right before our eyes but the balance between competition and newcomers can kill any card game. For every Magic: The Gathering and YuGiOh there are dozens of wannabes who couldn’t get on their feet. With an expansion on the horizon and all these changes forthcoming 2016 will be a real test.
You can get some more in-depth information about what, and why, Blizzard is making these changes over at Polygon.