Card reveal season is upon us, and the giddy excitement of unveilings, predictions and evaluations is one of the most entertaining parts of Hearthstone’s release cycle. However, in all the hullabaloo, many cards fall by the wayside. Introducing the “Facebook Dump”.
In every expansion, dozens of cards are shown a few days or even hours before the expansion release. But these aren’t revealed by streamers, news outlets or Blizzard themselves. Instead, they’re “dumped” in a massive image album on the Hearthstone official Facebook page. But why squander the opportunity? Why delay the hype? And why pack such a large number of cards into such a small amount of time?
One potential line of reasoning for the last-minute reveals would be an attempt to reduce fatigue from constant reveals. However, there remains long stretches of zero information, where the hype for an upcoming release is derailed. Surely sprinkling these cards out between those weeks of radio silence would help the hype more than a last minute dump, right?
What’s more, the sudden release of all remaining cards at once is far more overwhelming and obfuscatory than an overall higher rate of card reveals. The Facebook page can be hard to navigate, and the cards’ additions are hardly trumpeted from the rooftops. What’s worse, the sheer density of information can make theory-crafting impossible whilst invalidating prior efforts with new, meta-defining cards.
Not just chaff
This could perhaps be forgivable if the cards revealed on the Facebook dump were the least exciting, least competitive cards. No one would complain if the Worgen Greasers and Stegadons were treated as an afterthought. But the cards in the Facebook dump are often incredibly impactful, with other less competitive or mechanically unique cards being prioritised over them.
Both Small-time Buccaneer and Mysterious Challenger, two of the most archetype-defining cards ever printed, were revealed mere hours before full release in the dump. Players’ weeks of theorycrafting, meta discussions and deckbuilding ideas were rendered useless. Serious discussions about balance and viability went unsaid until long after the cards were already terrorising Ladder. Vital crafting decisions made by Dust and cash-strapped players were worse-informed and more likely to be disappointing.
An unfortunate compromise?
A more convincing argument for the Facebook card dump is that Blizzard is attempting to navigate between the “Hardcore” and “casual” player. The former wants to find out every card in the expansion prior to opening and packs. Meanwhile, the latter may desire an element of surprise and mystery when opening packs, looking forward to experiencing cards they never even knew existed.
This would make a degree of sense. However, it’s not difficult to avoid card spoilers if that’s what you want. Especially if you’re not an avid /r/hearthstone, official forums or Blizzard news reader. It’s likely that the only real effect is on the more engaged players who follow card reveals religiously. These players are the only ones effected by the Facebook dump style of releases.
Aside from all these explanations, it’s likely that the Facebook dump takes place primarily out of simplicity. Sending out cards to streamers and news sites takes time, organisation, communication and the risk of leaks. With hundreds of cards per expansion and only so many well-known, trusted outlets, it makes sense that there may not be enough distributors to go around. Even when taking into account the cards released in news articles and fluff for Hearthstone lore, each piece takes significant effort and can only realistically incorporate a few cards.
Of course, this could be ameliorated by giving certain affiliates more than one card to reveal. But this would likely create animosity and accusations of bias or favouritism. No one wants to be the poor chump stuck with only one card reveal while other streamers get two or more to reveal!
A better-spread dump
So it looks like the Facebook dump is here to stay. But even if it is just being pursued out of simplicity’s sake, then it could still be improved. Simply revealing the cards over a longer length of time would allow more space for theory-crafting and discussion, without adding to the workload. Meanwhile, players could get more of the addictive Hearthstone reveals they so crave.
Regardless of whether Blizzard changes their policy or not, it’s well worth taking a careful look through the Facebook card dump when it does come out. You never know if the next Small-time Buccaneer will be hiding among it.
Artwork courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.