Hearthicide

One of the interesting quotes going around the block this weekend:

“Hearthstone is killing itself” – Superdata
GamesIndustry.Biz

The short version of the situation was summed up by GameRant:

In a February report about the worldwide digital games market, SuperData spelled out a not so positive picture for the Blizzard card game. It says that in February, Hearthstone revenues on iOS and Android hit the “lowest” since those versions of the game launched and is “down significantly year-over-year and month-over-month.” The desktop version of the game has also experienced declining revenue but they have been less severe, likely due to the support from more “hardcore” fans.

SuperData blames this fall on recent “unpopular” gameplay changes to the game, which have resulted in a “sharp decrease in conversion on mobile.” Although Blizzard has attempted to fix problems with the game, such as addressing problems with arena drafts and nerfing certain OP (over-powered) cards, this hasn’t been enough. Several professional players have also ditched the game recently, citing the game’s reliance on randomness (rather than actual strategy), as a reason for them to look elsewhere.

I would kinda like to read the Superdata report itself to see if they provided more context, but the paywall is kinda significant.

Think I’ll pass, thanks.

The dire portents are somewhat interesting, because as recently as January the reports were all glowing about Hearthstone had cleared $394.6 million in 2016. Then again, perhaps that was just your sort of standard end-of-year update, and this February news showing a more concerning trend.

The question I always have: is it really randomness that’s the issue here? Certainly for Lifecoach it was an express reason. And perhaps for the pros at the top where the delta between player skill is so razor thin, randomness effectively makes up a disproportionate amount of the outcome.

But, honestly? As I mentioned a month ago, the problem is Team 5’s fucking ass-backwards balance philosophy. Back on January 13th, the devs officially stated that they were “looking into” the Pirate disaster they introduced in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. You know, the expansion that came out on December 1st? The nerfs themselves did not occur until the very end of February. So we got 1.5 months to acknowledge a problem, then another 1.5 months to move on a solution. Then, even after the nerf, 14 of the 16 players in the HCT Winter Championships brought Pirate Warrior.

Were the nerfed cards absent? Yes. Does Pirate Warrior still consistently kill you on turn 5? Also yes.

Triple threat.

That is the problem. You have pretty much 100% of aggro decks (and some midrange) running a Pirate package. If you aren’t facing Pirates, you are facing Jade Druid, which completely murders Control decks in two different ways (endless threats + zero fatigue). And if you happen to get lucky and aren’t facing Pirates or Jade Druid, you are facing Renolock, which is a match best described as a JRPG boss fight – get them to low HP, they heal to full, get them low again, and then they transform into Jaraxxus. If you aren’t playing one of those three decks, you are blood for the blood god.

Journey to Un’goro is coming out soon, and I am finding it difficult to imagine the meta shifting that much. Pirate Warrior loses Sir Finley, which is a one-drop Legendary that allows the Warrior to switch his hero power into something else. That is a bigger deal than it sounds, but not something that derails a turn 5 win with decent draws. Jade Druid loses a few cute moves with Brann, but is similarly otherwise unscathed. Reno Jackson himself is leaving, which is a big deal to Renolock, of course. Then again, Handlock did fine for years before Mr. “We’re going to be rich.”

You can see the entire new set yourself. What jumped out at me were the vast increase in Taunt cards, which is good. Taunt Warrior with the Rag hero power Quest is probably going to be a thing. Shaman elementals seem pretty powerful as well. I like the Druid cards, for the most part. But again, all that being said, will whatever new decks emerge actually be better in practice than Pirates or Jade?

I have my doubts.

And we haven’t really even gotten to the other parts of Hearthicide, which is doing practically nothing in the face of competitors like Shadowverse throwing out 10 free packs for their latest expansion. We’re getting some free stuff each day for logging in, I guess, but it’s hard to tell. In any case, Team 5 has got to get off their ass and at least put on the appearance of doing something, or Hearthstone is going to be competing with Heroes of the Storm soon. For last place.

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Posted on April 3, 2017, in Hearthstone and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. A major issue is a lot of people still don’t understand how the pro scene transitions to the masses. If you don’t have a pro scene, or its a joke, that heavily trickles down, even to people who aren’t directly following it. Pros set the meta, and they drive/motivate those just under them. That group contains a lot of key players, like group leaders or other high influencers, and down we go.

    You’d think Blizzard would already know this from their negative experience in WoW, or what they have seen happen in games like SC or WC.

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    • Yeah, I feel like Hearthstone could lose a few more pros like Lifecoach without an issue, but things could get dicey if any of the major streaming personalities bailed. People like Kripp, Trump, Hafu, Reynad, even smaller-fry like Disguised Toast. Which they really have no particular incentive to bail, given how many of them clear $10k+ a month in Twitch subs/donations/Youtube channels.

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  2. Most jade druids don’t runn brann. Druid is hurt more by losing azure drake and living roots. Jade shaman is going to feel the brann loss.

    If taunt warrior is good it will beat pirate warrior, but pirate warrior might still be the best aggro deck. I don’t see anything that really challenges that, unless murloc shaman is somehow amazing. Speaking of murlocs, Finja is completely broken and probably the next cancer card.

    I think HS’s biggest design problem right now is power creep. Not necessarily only on individual cards, but more so on decks. Compare MSG to Old Gods. The old god cards are powerful individual cards, but the decks they created were not heads and shoulders above non-old-god decks. On the other hand, MSG releases and immediately everything is either pirates from MSG, Jades from MSG, or Reno from MSG. Even decks that aren’t one of these types like Anyfin or Dragon priest run some busted MSG card and wouldn’t exist otherwise. Miracle rogue is the only real non-MSG deck still around. And the sad thing is that Un’goro has to either power creep MSG or mostly fail to make an impact.

    As for Superdata, where do they get their super data for drawing these conclusions from?

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  3. Anecdotally, I’m currently 11-2 with a F2P C’Thun Mage deck that doesn’t have a single MSG card in it, and I’m having more fun than I did in the previous meta (i.e. Midrange Shaman from horizon to horizon).

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