Massive cuts to Hearthstone esports program, but no need to panic yet

Massive cuts to Hearthstone esports program, but no need to panic yet

6 February 2023

Next month, Hearthstone will be celebrating its ninth anniversary and some fans of the popular of the digital collectible card game are worried that their favorite esports title might not make it to its tenth birthday. The reasons for that is the fact that Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind Hearthstone, announced that the game’s esports program for this year has been reduced considerably. Fewer major events and less prize money have Hearthstone fans fearing that the game might be following in the tracks of Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s would-be competitor to League of Legends and DotA 2 that was placed in (seemingly permanent) maintenance mode last summer.

Less Hearthstone in 2023

So, what exactly has the fans worrying about Hearthstone? It all started with the official announcement of this year’s official events earlier this month. Where 2022 featured over a dozen unique events with individual prize pools, only seven competitive events have been confirmed for 2023. Besides the 2023 World Championship, there will be three Masters Tour Seasonal Championships and three Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends events, but that’s not all of it. Perhaps even more worrying to the international Hearthstone community is the fact that prize money for these events has been cut by about 70% in comparison to last year. Generally, the amount of prize money flowing into official esports events is a good indicator of a specific title’s popularity and future potential. In that sense, Hearthstone is taking a big step backwards this year, because in comparison to 2022, prize money for the previously mentioned events has declined in a big way. Each Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends event boasts a prize pool worth $ 50.000 and the World Championship has a prize pool of $ 500.000, while the Masters Tour events won’t feature any prize pool at all. That’s a total of $ 650.000 for a series of seven competitive tournaments that featured a combined prize pool of $ 3 million just last year.

No need for panic

Blizzard likely was expecting a community outcry after announcing the Hearthstone esports program for 2023, as the company clearly separated the game’s success from its esports program in its statement earlier this month. The game studio assured fans that it has long-term plans for Hearthstone and the launch of the Hearthstone Creator Program, a new system to support the growth of Twitch streamers, Youtubers and other content creators, proves that. These developments will continue regardless of how the game’s esports side performs.

“The new [esports] program is sized for sustainability as Hearthstone Esports turns 10”, stated Blizzard in the 2023 program announcement, which further confirms that the company is far from giving up on its Hearthstone esports business. On top of that, for the first time in years, Hearthstone will be streamed on Twitch again this year as their previous exclusive Youtube deal has come to an end. This will very likely lead to higher viewership and more options for the game’s fans to show their support as well.