Hearthstone is now all grown up and ready to swallow your time and money.
Blizzard revealed today that its online collectible card game is exiting the beta-testing phase. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, which most closely resembles something like Magic: The Gathering, is now out in its official release. It’s available to download for free for Mac and PC, and a native iPad app is coming soon. Blizzard also promises that Android and iPhone support is in development, but those versions aren’t due out for a while (although, you can play Hearthstone on your tablet right now, if you know how). Gamers can head to Playhearthstone.com right now to get the card battler.
This is Blizzard’s first real free-to-play release. Its level of success will likely inform how the publisher moves forward with the development of its next round of titles, which includes the delayed followup to World of Warcraft. Additionally, with subscription numbers down for WOW over the last few years, Hearthstone could start replacing revenue that the company’s premier MMO has lost.
Hearthstone is fully online. It has human players facing off against each other in one on one battles. The goal is to build a powerful deck and then play your best cards at the right time to destroy your opponent. While this is similar to other collectible-card games, Blizzard has streamlined the gameplay so that matches aren’t overly complex or time-consuming but still feel strategic and rewarding.
Gamers can earn gold by winning matches and completely quests. They can then use that currency to purchase new booster decks or material to craft specific cards — alternatively, players can spend gold to enter the Arena, which has them creating a wholly new (and temporary) deck based on a random selection of cards. After three loses in the Arena, players are thrown out and awarded more cards or items. Win enough matches in the Arena and you earn not only enough gold to cover the run but more chances of earning powerful Epic and Legendary cards.
Of course, Hearthstoners can also purchase in-game gold with real-world money. Analysts expect Hearthstone will generate between $100 million and $200 million in 2014.
Hearthstone is also a game that is primed to take on the e-sports scene. Blizzard is not unfamiliar with competitive gaming — its StarCraft games practically invented modern-day e-sports. Hearthstone, with its easy-to-follow action, may draw large audiences interested in watching the best players put their decks to the test.
We’ll have our Hearthstone review up on the site in the near future.
Blizzard first released the card title in closed beta in August. The publisher ended up inviting over a million gamers into that testing by the beginning of November. In January, the publisher tore down the gate and opened up the test to everyone. While its only now exiting beta, Hearthstone has accepted real-money payments since it started in August.