What I Played in 2015: Hearthstone
I played a lot of Hearthstone in 2015 — maybe more than I would like to admit. I also spent more real money on Hearthstone than I would like to admit.
Hearthstone falls into the “Potato Chip” classification of gaming urges. It’s always there, it’s always easy to play and I can play it while I listen to podcasts. I even dipped into its mobile version during long car rides or family conversations I didn’t want to partake in.
The addictiveness of Blizzard games is very closely related to the accessibility that they present. It’s not simply that they make games with responsive and refined gameplay, it’s that the make it so damn easy to play these games. Every consideration is taken to make sure that your game works and is adaptable to any given situation. Blizzard is the friendliest drug dealer on your street, and they have the most efficient warehouse making their product.
In comparison to their other products, nothing is as streamlined for ease-of-use as Hearthstone. It runs like a reliable toaster; it’s simple, it’s responsive, it always makes the perfect toast, and it takes a minimum amount of effort to deliver a great experience.
The streamlined and reliable use would be nothing without polish though. Luckily, Hearthstone is made by Blizzard, and that means it oozes polish at the seams. The menus, the card placing, even the damn clickable environments are incredibly responsive and polished. I would even say they are unnecessarily polished. It’s a game that has a core system based off of a 23 year old card game. It really doesn’t need to have AAA animation, music, sound effects, and voice acting. But Blizzard is Blizzard, and that heap of extra work is much appreciated, and a large reason this game is as successful as it is.
On a more critical game-design level, I think that they’ve established a decent trajectory for this game. The meta gets blown up every few months with new expansions and solo-adventures, and the power curve is following a similar path to Magic the Gathering and other popular card games. If they can sustain this momentum they will maintain an involving metagame encased in a polished gameplay experience for years to come.
As to be expected, Blizzard has another huge cash cow on their hands. Here’s looking forward to Overwatch.