Hearthstone is easily the most popular online card game right now, and Blizzard has made a move that will further solidify the game’s presence as a lucrative eSport as well. The 2016 Hearthstone World Championship will a impressive $1 million (RM4.2 million) prize pool, and its nine qualifying tournaments will each receive an additional $100,000 (RM422,000) in prize support.
The road to the 2016 Championship begins this weekend at Dreamhack Winter, where players will have the opportunity to accumulate points through ranked play and tournaments to qualify for the regional finals. Each of the four regions will send four players to the World Championship next year. These regions will have four major events that will receive a $100,000 prize pool, and the winner will be eligible to represent that region for a shot at the Championship.
Interestingly, Blizzard has decided that all players must start on even footing at the beginning of each Hearthstone season. This means that all earned points at gone at the end of a season, and every player must work to earn their spot in the finals. The idea is that this creates a more even playing field, but it also means that the top players will not receive instant byes in any event. Points distribution has also been reviewed, with the top spots earning fewer points and the lower spots getting more for competing.
All this means that players will have to work much harder to qualify for the finals, which is great for the community as it treats all players the same.
The season Championships will also see a modified format. Each season may see a change in format for the tournament, and tournament organisers are encouraged to be creative in what they do with their events. This is possibly the most casual approach to pro-gaming that we have ever heard. At the moment, the Winter season of Hearthstone will see a modified Conquest format with a ban. Players will bring four decks – each with a different class – to the event, and their opponent will have to opportunity to ban on of those classes for the match.
Blizzard is pushing Hearthstone much harder than expected, although we should have seen that coming. The rebalanced points system and more even playing field is great for players looking to break into the eSports scene, and we may see more creativity and variation in the meta.