The Hearthstone developer team recently announced that they will be putting any form of in-game tournament mode on hold. That’s unfortunate news for ladder players who were looking to get closer playing at a competitive level.
The format difference between ladder and competitive tournaments needs preparation many players might have never had experience with before. Bridging the gap between ladder and competitive is a much needed step into expanding the Hearthstone player base and their overall happiness.
Why Tournament Mode is Needed
If even for not adding any more players to the competitive side of the game, tournament mode would heavily improve the current playability and watchability of the game.
Currently, players have to go through a long process to just play a single game, especially in online tournaments. A player must seek out their opponent on Battlefy or some other tournament service. Then, they have to figure out a banning method (usually done through the website). They then have to add that player to their friends list in order to challenge them. Players also currently have to screenshot the result of every game to have proof that you won to a tournament organizer. If all of this could be moved to in-client, it would save a lot of time.
The spectator function also needs to be improved. Cards continue to show upside down for the top opponent when spectating both players. A way to display the score between opponents would also be nice. Even when playing a set with friends, unless you are keeping track out of game you will not be reminded of the set score. This is a simple feature most games incorporate.
Most importantly, a tournament mode introduces players to competitive without confusion and money. The difference between ladder and a tournament is huge. You have to figure out a deck lineup that would work well against a meta that you have to predict. You also know every card in each other’s decks, as opposed to playing a single deck on ladder and not knowing what your opponent has in their deck.
Blizzard likely thinks that they want a game mode that appeals to more players, including the new and casual audience. The product they had produced was likely more on par with their Tour style tournaments, and they didn’t want that. If a tournament mode comes out, it is likely to simplify the tournament style or add a fun twist for it to be enjoyed by the less competitive.
Blizzard has been heavily focusing on the new player experience. As pointed out by caster Dan “Frodan” Chou on Twitter, player retention is a very important part of keeping a successful game with an active player base.
Retention, however, is also extremely important. I feel like HS has been giving few reasons for players to want remain active. It's a great game to jump back in when you take a break (team 5 has regularly stated this a high priority item), but many players WANT to stay engaged.
— Frodan (@Frodan) September 18, 2018
An issue that Hearthstone faces without improving the game experience for veteran players is losing those players. With Artifact’s release drawing near, Hearthstone veterans are feeling a pull towards that game with a promise of Valve’s name behind it. The game directly competes with Hearthstone, and if the personalities in the Hearthstone scene are giving praise to Artifact, even the new players Blizzard hopes to reach out to may opt to give Artifact a try instead.
If you want to get some HCT points, you have to travel far with the chance of no results. A tournament isn’t worth forking over thousands of dollars for the “experience”. Hopefully, it won’t be long until Blizzard finds a happy balance to give these players what they need.