Will Hearthstone Be The Next Big eSport?

Games don't have to be hard to be entertaining. Hearthstone is showing some great potential.

With BlizzCon right around the corner, we can expect an amazing climax to Blizzard’s Starcraft II World Championship Series, which has been going on for the past months. One of the highlights in the eSports scene. Combine this with the hype surrounding Hearthstone and you might find asking yourself:

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Does Hearthstone have the potential to be an eSport?

Electronic sports (eSports) is a term for organized video game competitions, especially between professionals.” – Wikipedia

First of all, let’s take a look at current and future eSports titles. There is a plethora of Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, or simply MOBA, games on the market and the most popular of these is certainly League of Legends followed by Dota 2. Then we have Starcraft II representing Real-Time Strategy and at the other end of the spectrum we have the First-Person Shooters, such as Counter-Strike, Battlefield, etc..

And then there are Trading Card Games, a genre which recently celebrated a big revival following the success of Magic: The Gathering, Mojang’s Scolls, Pokemon and Hearthstone, of course. As most games, they have a competitive component, which is interesting for the participants. However, the question we need to ask ourselves is:

Are TCG fun to watch as well?

I think they are, but I am not sure why. There are a number of reasons why watching Hearthstone can be interesting:

  1. Discovering new and interesting combos
  2. Listen to the thought-process of the player
  3. Very accessible to a large audience
  4. Nostaligia trip based on your past with in the Warcraft Universe

If you’re interested in competing or watching competitive play, there are a few opportunities coming up.

ESL  recently started their Hearthstone League and Blizzard will host the Hearthstone™ Innkeeper’s Invitational during Blizzcon on Saturday, November 9th at 10:00 a.m. PST. With players like Husky, Day9 and casters like Totalbiscuit, this will be an event to remember. This will also be the first officially streamed esports-like event, so we will get one step closer to find out, if Hearthstone has the potential to be taken seriously within the world of eSports.

I believe this game is great is might even attract a sustainable audience to be counted as an eSport, but there are various concerns that need addressing before we can pass a final verdict. 

  1. Variety: With the current amount of cards, there are only a limited number of practical combos making the game unattractive to follow, as games will start to look very similar (ergo boring). 
  2. Skill: Viewer numbers alone do not make an eSport, Minecraft is proof of that. A necessary requirement is a high skill ceiling and less randomness. As it stands now, even average players would be able to beat experienced players, if they simply follow instructions as well have luck on their side. Only time will tell, if this might change. 
  3. Technical issues: At the moment there is neither a spectator mode nor the possibility to watch game replays without 3rd party software.

Even though, I agree that there is a certain amount of skill and strategy involved with all types of TCGs, I would never go as far as saying that they are on an equal footing with Starcraft, Dota 2, etc. But the beauty is… they don’t have to be and they will still be entertaining to watch and to play. 

As my last remarks, let me re-consider the luck factor of Hearthstone. Consider a game of poker, a game which entails much more luck than skill (one might think), but we often see the same faces at the final table… Who knows, maybe Hearthstone has the potential to become as big as poker?! (In this case, Blizzard should start working on the spectator mode)

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

And as always, thanks for reading.

 

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Author
Robert Hein
Nintendo Nerd General videogame lover, full-time e-sports enthusiast, and part-time goofball.