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Esports Hearthstone

The price of losing Adventures and Hearthstone’s squeezed middle

It’s easy to imagine Ben Brode scratching his head. Team 5 have introduced a number of changes to make Hearthstone more generous. Blizzard added free weekly Tavern Brawl packs, guaranteed legendaries, no duplicate legendaries and the Welcome Bundle. What more do players want? And yet, complaints about the game’s cost only increase, especially on the Hearthstone subredddit. So what’s going on? The answer may lie in the move from Adventures to expansions, and who that affects.

Who loses?

Let’s roughly divide the Hearthstone community into three types of players. Blizzard understandably doesn’t release their internal sales and usage data, so this can’t be based in direct data. However, even painting in broad strokes can help here. We can consider how “hardcore” a player is in their spending habits and split them accordingly.

  • Casual low-spenders
  • Mid-level semi-hardcore spenders
  • Hardcore ‘Whales’

These three types of players are affected very differently; both by the generous changes and the switch to all-expansion rather than Adventure releases. Let’s look at them individually. Who wins out from these changes, and who loses?

The hardcore

Let’s talk about ‘whales’, the somewhat degrading catch-all term for people who spend the most on micro-transactions. In Hearthstone, these are the players who’ll be unpacking hundreds of packs on day one of expansion release. They likely aim for full or near-full collections, will certainly have multiple meta decks and may even craft golden cards. They may be pro or semi pro, stream or have a job related to Hearthstone.

So how do these players benefit? Well for starters, there’s one main change that has helped whales significantly. Removing unpacking duplicate legendaries has significantly buffed the benefit of opening large numbers of packs, as it’s far easier to get all or most of the legendaries if you don’t dust so many.

More importantly, hardcore players get more of what they want: content. With over a hundred cards, full-sized expansions can offer several times the raw number of cards as Adventures. This not only means more goodies to collect, it can mean more wacky, non-competitive legendaries that the hardcore player can enjoy messing around with. With Adventures, everything has to be tailored for maximal impact, but expansions can add the Yoggs, Rotfaces and Mayor Noggenfoggers.

The casual

Casual low-spenders make up the majority of Hearthstone’s user-base. They spend rarely, if at all, and mostly hover around lower ranks. They may not play Hearthstone as much, and may be more likely to be mobile users.

First off, casual players benefit most from many changes added to Hearthstone’s reward systems. Weekly packs from Tavern Brawls is great for someone who logs in less frequently. Free legendaries at the start of expansions and guaranteed legendaries in the first 10 packs is also perfect for low spenders. To round it all off, the $5 Welcome Bundle is a fantastic investment for newer players.

The casual player also wins out from the end of Adventures. Despite increases to the number of mandatory legendaries, the swap from expansions to Adventures can make it a lot easier for a starting or low-spending player to get the cards they need. The reason is simple; it’s far easier to craft commons and rares than to buy Adventures.

For low-spending casuals, the 700 gold cost per wing was a huge paywall. Often players would need to buy through all five wings for a single vital common. And with Adventures tailored for high impact, they were often necessary for a player to compete. And that $20 or 3500 gold would often be a terrible investment, as players would get tons of cards that they didn’t especially need amongst the few they actually wanted.

A squeezed middle?

So what about the mid-tier spenders? These are the players that will typically buy packs on a semi-regular basis, especially around expansions, and will only collect and craft the cards and decks they really want. Unfortunately, these are the players losing out, and make up a large proportion of the vocal, interactive community on Reddit and Blizzard’s forums.

Although they also benefit from free legendaries and packs, their proportionate impact is lower. The mid-tier spender will typically dust their unwanted legendaries anyway, making the likelihood of duplicates low regardless.

But these players are being punished by the swap to an all-expansion model. Adventures used to be perfect for mid-tier spenders. $20 for all the content was a great deal for those seeking to build a few powerful decks. But expansions make things a lot more expensive; a pre-order costs $40. But it doesn’t get you all of the content, and will often leave these players without the tools to make competitive decks for their favourite classes.

If Blizzard wants to reduce the complaints over cost on their most public forums, they need more targeted benefits for these mid-tier spenders.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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