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Hearthstone's Open Beta Is Officially Live

Jan 22 2014, 5:00am CST | by

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Hearthstone's Open Beta Is Officially Live

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Hearthstone's Open Beta Is Officially Live

Blizzard can be quite stealthy when they want to be, and all of a sudden, after months and months of waiting, they’ve flung open the gates of the Hearthstone beta. The Warcraft-themed online card game has been in closed beta for months now, and keys for the game were sold for hundreds of dollars when its exclusivity was at its peak. Now, the free-to-play game is open to anyone who wants to play, no begging or pleading required.

I managed to snag one of the earlier keys a long time ago, and ever since, I’d be surprised if there have been more than two consecutive days where I haven’t played Hearthstone. Even as someone who never got into World of Warcraft and was forbidden from playing Magic: The Gathering as a kid (because of the Satanic undertones), I became hopelessly addicted to the game anyway. In its infancy, the game has just a few hundred cards of creature and spells that can be mixed and matched to make decks based on various Warcraft classes. You can earn gold to buy packs through gameplay, or you can buy them outright with real world cash.

I’m not quite sure what level of ashamed I am to admit I’ve spent $200 on packs already, even in closed beta. It’s an addicting microtransaction the likes of which I haven’t come across in any other free-to-play game, and one that sends me back to childhood, opening packs of Pokemon cards in the hopes of getting a rare holofoil.

Though the game has been describes as Magic for casuals, that really shouldn’t be viewed as an insult. It’s easy to pick up and play, but over time, the game has shown surprising depth of strategy, and it’s already being played at a professional level. Hearthstone streamers have been getting tens of thousands of concurrent viewers the past few months, and I’m curious to see if viewership will increase or decrease now that the beta is open, and everyone can play for themselves.

Despite Project Titan being Blizzard’s long awaited next “big thing,” Hearthstone could prove to be a surprisingly valuable card in their hand (no pun intended). Any free-to-play game that entices me to spend $200 on it during a closed beta is doing something right, and I expect new players will quickly find themselves addicted to either playing, pack buying, or both.

Right now, after the open beta patch, the game appears to be having some stability issues, not uncommon for any Blizzard launch. I’ve already been booted out of two matches, so things may be a little rocky in this opening stretch here. I would hold off on trying to make any arena or ladder runs (where disconnects equal a loss) or buying card packs until the game is running a bit more smoothly.

Hearthstone is a lot of fun, and Blizzard isn’t even paying me a $3 CPM to say that. Give it a try for yourself, and see what you think, even if you’re not a fan of either Warcraft or collectible card games. You may be surprised.

Follow me on Twittersubscribe to my Forbes blog, and pick up a copy of my sci-fi novelThe Last Exodus, and its sequel, The Exiled Earthborn.

Source: Forbes


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