Is Hearthstone’s Esports Scene Going The Way Of Heroes Of The Storm?

The new Hearthstone World Champion has been crowned, but few seemed aware that the biggest tournament of the year was going on this past weekend, after estimates show viewership dropped 95% from last year. There are several reasons why this might have happened, but one thing is abundantly clear, and that is the parallels between Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, right before Blizzard pulled the plug on its hero brawler.

A Champion Is Crowned, But Did Anyone See?

The World Championship took place this last weekend, and the stage was set for an exciting tournament. There were no returning World Champions, guaranteeing a new face taking the top spot. Monstanto, bloodyface, and others put up a great show, while contender Glory from Japan became the new champion after fighting his way up from an elimination bracket following a loss in the first round.

Despite a weekend of strong plays, outstanding casting by Jia, Darroch, Sottle, Raven, Azumo, the always-entertaining Frodan, and a $500,000 prize pool, viewership compared to 2019 on Twitch tanked, at around 95% lower this year, now streamed live on YouTube.

On Monday morning, Frodan tweeted about his disappointment. After a weekend of world-class performance by the best players in the world, the only real talk on Reddit and other forums was that few people even knew the tournament had taken place.

From Twitch To YouTube, And Almost No Marketing

In February of this year, Sports Business Journal reported that YouTube had struck a deal with Activision Blizzard, paying $160 million over three years for the rights to stream all esports content. The big names in this deal would have been for the Call of Duty League and Overwatch League, which have considerable investments made to try and force their growth.

Unfortunately, Hearthstone was also swept up in this deal, and it has been a problem for content creators and tournaments since day one. When the Masters Tour first began on YouTube, it was an almost identical story as the recent World Championship, meaning that even when tournaments were live, it was difficult to find live streams due to the ever-changing algorithms for view recommendations.

Putting aside the problematic way that YouTube chooses what type of content it recommends to you, Blizzard appeared equally disinterested in promoting its largest Hearthstone event of the year. Information about the event appeared on the Blizzard Launcher, but that space competes for attention with a constant reminder to buy the latest Call of Duty, that Naxxramas has launched in World of Warcraft Classic, and more. Unless you were looking for it, the announcement was easy to miss.

Even the official Hearthstone Twitter account seemed to drop the ball on this one. Rather than make an announcement, it retweeted a single post from the Hearthstone Esports account, and then one more on the day of the finals. In contrast, it has since tweeted four different times regarding the upcoming balance patch. It seems like Hearthstone esports even takes a back seat on its official social media page.

A Familiar Feel To Heroes Of The Storm

The rise and fall of Heroes of the Storm (HOTS) is fascinating on its own, and in summary, the problems stemmed from Blizzard arriving years too late to the genre and pumping an exorbitant amount of capital to artificially create an esports scene that could not sustain itself. Looking back, it is frustrating to see that such a fun game suffered as a result of Blizzard’s inability to navigate the market. If you are not familiar with why HOTS failed, check out the video below.

The problem now is that Hearthstone, despite having a healthy player base and outstanding content creators, is showing many of the same symptoms as HOTS before Blizzard unceremoniously cancelled all its esports and reduced game development to a skeleton crew. It continue to create Tournaments with large prize pools but do next to nothing in terms of promotion. Now it would be easy as a Blizzard executive to simply say “Look, Hearthstone has no audience, no one wants to watch, so let’s stop investing in its esports.”

It is a ridiculous statement, of course, because without promotion there is no viewership, but without viewership, it is easy to justify pulling the plug. We certainly hope that this last weekend was simply a series of colossal, unintended screwups from Blizzard, but time will tell if this is simply part of their playbook to justify the gutting of its poorly managed esports division for Hearthstone.

NEXT: Panic Button Says Doom Eternal Was The Hardest Switch Port To Make

  • TheGamer Originals
  • Hearthstone
  • Blizzard

The Fantastic, Science-Fiction, and Horror are Patricio’s go-to genres for literature, film, and gaming. Dead by Daylight is his daily bread and butter as he writes for TheGamer. He teaches Spanish at McGill by day and writes next to his Staffy x Boxer rescue from the SPCA by night.

Patricio graduated from the University of Alberta in 2006, 2012, and will have one more degree in hand by 2020. Innovation in game development, the economics of making games profitable, and the downward, decadent spiral of former great gaming companies fuels his soul to write daily. Will Blizzard Entertainment do something controversial often enough to keep this reference relevant? Patrick certainly believes they will.

Source: Read Full Article