Hearthstone is a great digital card game, and now it’s also a less-than-great real-life card game in China.
A physical set of Hearthstone cards, game board, and counters, based on Blizzard Entertainment’s extremely popular title for PC, Mac, and iOS, is for sale on Chinese website Taobao, an online marketplace like eBay or Amazon, reports Games in Asia. Costing 300 Chinese Yuan (around $50), the set has nothing to do with Blizzard and shows that while the Chinese gaming market is potentially lucrative — it was worth around $14 billion last year — it’s still very much like the Wild West.
Games in Asia reporter Thomas Price tried out the physical Hearthstone set and concluded, “It’s a surprisingly functional replication of an earlier version of Hearthstone that is more of a fun experiment than a serious replacement for the actual game.”
The real-life set includes “four copies of every normal and legendary card and more for those that can spawn in greater numbers,” according to Price.
Price also notes that the set includes tokens to show status effects like Taunt, Silence, and Deathrattle. There are also wheels to attach to your minions, indicating health and attack.
The set sounds pretty fiddly to put together, taking Price and his two friends close to two hours before they could actually play. He noted how long each turn took to work through: “What would be a 30-second turn in the digital game took up the better part of five minutes here.”
“If playing this physical version — and watching it be played — taught me one thing,” said Price, “it’s this: The digital game is incredibly good at streamlining. Blizzard has taken full advantage of the game being digital-only to include some complex, interesting mechanics that are awkward or just tedious to resolve in a physical copy.”
Blizzard will likely take a look over at Taobao, but whether it can actually stop such Chinese knockoffs of its gaming products is unclear. Business Insider reported last year that enforcement of copyright breaches “remains patchy despite a new trademark law passed in China in 2011.”