2020 looks to be a pretty solid year when it comes to esports in Hearthstone. With six big Masters Tour events, two seasons of Grandmasters as well as a yet unannounced World Championship (possibly at BlizzCon), the year will be packed with tournaments. Until now, you could watch everything on Twitch.tv, but 2020 events will no longer be streamed on that platform. As Kotaku reports, Activision Blizzard has struck a deal with Google, and one of the points is moving all of the Esports streaming (including Overwatch League, Call of Duty League and – of course – Hearthstone Esports tournaments). Blizzard already let their fans watch some events through YouTube, but they had an exclusive deal with Twitch when it comes to most of their Esports content. For example, you could watch most of the Hearthstone card reveal live streams on YouTube, but Overwatch League was only accessible on Twitch. Now all of the content will be streamed through YouTube.
I have to say that I have mixed feelings about the whole thing – while YouTube stream quality is good and the entire site it’s way, way better than Facebook (sorry Mark), Twitch still feels like a better gaming streaming platform as a whole, with better UI and emotes being some of its strong points. Despite YouTube being significantly bigger, its gaming streams are still less popular than those on Twitch, meaning that most likely those tournaments will have less viewers. There’s also no telling what will happen to promos like pack drops. I think YouTube allows drops, so it’s something they might be able to figure out. They don’t have much time, though. The first tournament happens in just a week – Masters Tour Arlington starts next Friday (January 31).
The deal is much bigger than just moving streams to another platform – Activision Blizzard will also use other Google services such as Google Cloud, their data analysis or AI capabilities (including to serve people better tailored ads and offer recommendations – well, yeah…). However, those things most likely won’t impact individual Blizzard games fans as much as moving streams to YouTube.