The game taking up most of my time these days isn’t a giant, well-established franchise like Call of Duty or League of Legends, it’s Hearthstone, a game that’s not even out yet. Blizzard’s virtual collectible card battling game is still in closed beta, and it’s going to remain that way for a little while longer.
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Blizzard just announced that Hearthstone’s beta will be closed until next year at some unspecified time, though they said anyone who has requested a beta key before last week should have one by now. Registrations for the beta will be closed January 7th ahead of an eventual release (hopefully a month or two later), so submit your request before then if you want early access.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a collectible card game in the vein of Magic: The Gathering that has players battling each other using characters and creatures from Warcraft lore. It was initially classified as a “dumbed down” version of Magic by skeptics, and while that may be somewhat true in its infant stages, the game has shown a surprising amount of complexity even with limited cards, and I have a sneaking suspicion it very well might be Blizzard’s Next Big Thing with the mysterious Project Titan forever delayed.
Why? Excitement for the free to play game is tangible. On Twitch.tv, streams of high level or professional Hearthstone players draw in up to twenty thousand viewers at a time. Much of the time, the only game with more total stream views than Hearthstone is League of Legends, the most popular game in the world with over 30 million monthly players.
Furthermore, Hearthstone has an incredible opportunity for monetization, above and beyond other free-to-play games. Combining popular characters, intuitive UI and rules, and the childhood joy of card pack opening, and the “free” Hearthstone can have you racking up quite a credit card bill rather quickly. I’ve easily spent well over $100 on cards, trying to find the right ones to make powerful decks, and the game isn’t even out of closed beta yet. I suspect I’m not alone.
I wrongly predicted that the Hearthstone open beta would start around Blizzcon, which had the world’s first professional Hearthstone tournament where Starcraft commentator Artosis walked away with top honors. It’s too bad the beta has been delayed until next year, though it’s understandable. As fun as the game is, there are many, many bugs that still need to be stamped out, and they actually seem to be multiplying with new patches, rather than getting exterminated. There’s still some ways to go before the game is ready for prime time.
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