Hearthstone hasn’t had a terribly successful 2016.
But Team 5 and Blizzard are determined to right all wrongs. In an announcement dated October 26, 2016, the Hearthstone team announced massive overhauls to the eSports ecosystem of Hearthstone that’s focused on improving the Hearthstone Championship Tour and creating a better alternative tournament scene for the digital card game.
The Hearthstone’s competitive scene took a dip on the back of a multitude of issues: noncompetitive card designs, a confusing professional circuit to follow and a Standard format that was out of sync of the content release cycle.
Third-party tournaments dropped off as well. In 2015, a multitude of third-party tournament organizers pushed the envelope of what could be done in competitive Hearthstone. Sealed tournaments by Red Bull and team formats run by Archon captured the interest of casual spectators and teams. But in 2016, gaming organizations started releasing rosters. New tournaments served more as a critique to Blizzard’s gaffes rather than a celebration of opportunities.
Come 2017, Hearthstone’s HCT will have its overall prize pool increased to $2 million. The increase in prizes will pave the way for the Global Season Championships that will replace the seasonal regional championships.
The Regional Preliminaries are gone too. They will be replaced with regional season playoffs. Americas, APAC, Europe and China will each have a regional LAN event whose winners will go to the Global Season Championships.
Finally, the Standard season will now sync up with the content release of new expansions. Instead of having the Hearthstone World Championships at BlizzCon, typically in November, the next global championships will be set for early 2018 to be in line with a new set of cards.
The world championship’s prize pool remains at $1 million but each global season championships will pay out to $250,000. That, coupled with the fact that more team events are coming directly supported by Blizzard, and it looks like Hearthstone will have a happy new year.