I’m going to reference a few key points throughout this article, so here are the three areas I’ll be focusing on:
- The game itself has become stagnant
- Viewership is dropping
- The RNG needs to be reduced, but how?
My core argument here will focus on Hearthstone esports fundamentally not competing with other titles. To begin with, however, we must look at what makes Hearthstone so great.
Table of Contents
What Makes Hearthstone Esports Different?
First off, let’s consider the game itself – it’s a simple concept: you play cards and use them to reduce your opponent’s health to zero. It has a variety of different mechanics that don’t apply in any other esport (think about Bouncing Blades (Rogue), for example), and, most importantly of all, and it’s a card game played against another person. The old saying that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” so I think this quote applies here perfectly – Hearthstone has every chance to succeed because its competitors are failing on an even more epic scale!
Another reason why Hearthstone esports is so successful (in my opinion, at least) is the way in which Blizzard has managed to make their game enjoyable not only to play but also to watch. Yes, Hearthstone may be simple when compared to other esport titles, but it’s also much more impactful – a single card can change the course of a game, and this instant gratification is something that anyone can enjoy.
However, the most crucial factor in Hearthstone’s success is the starting health of both players – 30 life. This means that every single game begins on a level playing field and ensures that the victor must have used their cards carefully to assemble their own combos or take advantage of an opponent’s swing turns. This, in turn, leads to an incredible variety in strategy and gameplay, which benefits the viewer.
What Makes a Great Hearthstone Esports?
So now we know what makes Hearthstone Esports so unique but how does this translate into a great viewing experience? Because there are only nine rounds in a game of Hearthstone, each individual round is concise whilst also being impactful. When playing the game, few rounds are ever quite as simple as “I go face once and you die.” This makes for exciting gameplay where tactical decisions play a vital role in achieving victory.
This also leads to an incredible amount of parity – no single player is so much better than another that they are guaranteed to win every game. Underdog stories are lovely in esports because they always have a glimmer of hope – there’s always the chance, however slight, that an underdog may beat the odds and make it through.
Talking about the conclusion of Hearthstone Esports
To summarise (TL;DR), Hearthstone makes for exciting viewing due to its tactical gameplay where matchups matter more than individual skill. This parity, combined with the short length of individual rounds, makes for exciting viewing.
However, I would argue that Hearthstone esports has become stagnant – it doesn’t feel like things are changing. The game itself is still great (the perfect foundation) but the second two points lead to the game stagnating – viewership is dropping and RNG needs to be reduced.
What’s Missing From Hearthstone Esports?
There are several different factors that I’ll be touching on but, for now, I’m going to focus on one in particular: player identity. The first significant problem with Hearthstone esports is the lack of player identity, which is a direct result of how Blizzard chooses to broadcast their Hearthstone esports content.
Let’s go back to my previous point for a moment – the perfect foundation is the centralized gameplay and high parity between players. On one hand, this leads to incredible games with fantastic stories but it also means that viewers struggle to connect with the players. Hearthstone is all about one-on-one interactions between two players but if neither of them have a memorable personality then it’s challenging for the average viewer to become invested in their favourite player.
Hearthstone esports broadcasts are incredibly impersonal, viewing experiences. Blizzard has chosen to adopt an approach where there is no analyst desk and the broadcast consists of little more than a webcam feed while the ‘casters’ talk over what’s happening in game. This is incredibly ineffective at grabbing an audience, significantly if they aren’t already invested in Hearthstone.
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