The announcement for the newest Hearthstone expansion, Ashes of Outland, was heavily overshadowed by the announcement of the new Demon Hunter class. While that piece of information received most of the attention in yesterday’s reveal, the upcoming changes to duplicate protection are by far the most important announcement and will have long-term ramifications for new and existing players.
You Get Duplicate Protection, And You Get Duplicate Protection!
The big news comes in the form of expanding duplicate protection from Legendary cards to all rarities. This means that when opening a pack of cards from a specific set, players will never receive more than two copies until they have acquired every other available card in that rarity. The importance of this decision cannot be overstated, as players will now be able to round out collections from every set more easily.
Instead, the decision to place duplicate protection across all rarities is a major step towards making the game more affordable and accessible to all players. While this move may be lauded as Blizzard doing the right by their players, the decision was probably a necessity for the long-term health of the game.
A Necessary Move To Draw Players In
In January, TheGamer discussed how “Hearthstone Is Now The Most Expensive It’s Ever Been,” when taking into consideration the shift in the game’s monetization structure since the launch of the game, and how the release of Galakrond’s Adventure sought to double-dip into the wallets of a player base.
Since the release of Hearthstone, the new-player experience has been a constant focus for Blizzard, mentioned often in blog posts but never reaching a level that is acceptable to most. With the high cost of acquiring cards for top-tier decks, even for veterans that have played since launch, something needed to be done to bring in fresh meat. Luckily, duplicate protection is not the only move we are seeing, and it may point to a permanent trend for players.
Free Decks? Free Decks!
The announcement of the Demon Hunter class is, rightfully so, exciting to most players. If the announcement had been made a year or two ago, there is a good chance that anyone who wanted to play the new class could have done so for a the low, low price of some arbitrarily decided purchase point decided by the Finance department at Blizzard to maximize sales.
With the need to bring in new players and make the game more accessible in price, we are seeing the Demon Hunter introduced to all players for free, and a Standard deck is also being provided free of charge to dive right into ranked action with this new class.
In addition, the new-player experience is getting another boost in the arm by giving players a free deck from the class of their choice. This is also being offered to returning players who have been away for the past four months, which is to say, that have missed out on the last expansion entirely.
Free PvE, At Least To Start With
As mentioned above, the release of Galakrond’s Adventure remains polarizing among players. 2019 was the most expensive year for content in Hearthstone’s history, and the decision to gate cards through an Adventure that required cash or Gold to unlock was unpopular. This is a key point that remains unaddressed by Blizzard, because while the above features are meant to draw new and returning players into the game, the cards in Galakrond’s Adventure remain locked away until purchased.
With Ashes of Outland, Blizzard has announced that, “a new, totally free, solo adventure will be coming later in the expansion cycle.” Blizzard’s decision to highlight that the adventure is free almost seems like a self-referential nod to their own greedy monetization structure, and for now there is nothing to indicate the PvE in the future will remain free, or if Blizzard will seek to charge for both Expansions and Adventures.
For now, Blizzard is sending out mixed messages. The Year of the Phoenix looks to be the most affordable for players across the board, but these actions may be temporary to draw players in and then attempt to pillage, as seen in 2019. Time will tell, but Blizzard cannot keep ignoring new players for much longer if it hopes to remain relevant with so many other great options available in the genre.
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