Blizzard has just announced their plans for Hearthstone esports this year. Pro players have long waited to hear more about the direction the game will be taken in. Sadly, the news don’t look very bright.
Hearthstone’s esports scene gets considerably downsized this year. In total, there will be seven major events – three Seasonal Championships and 2023 World Championship for Standard and three Lobby Legends for Battlegrounds. Qualifying to the main (and only) events will take place exclusively through the ladder – there will be no qualification tournaments or smaller Masters Tours. Players will get points for high Legend season finishes (or high MMR Battleground finishes) and invites will be based on those points. The three qualifying periods will run from January to March, April to June and finally July to September.
The total amount of money prizes for Hearthstone esports this year will be reduced heavily – Lobby Legends will feature $50k prize pool, but Seasonal Championship will have no money prize at all. The only prize here is the potential to win invite to World Championship with $500k prize pool. Being a Hearthstone pro without a heavy focus on streaming was already barely sustainable – it looks like that path is now completely dead.
Additionally, because of the recent news that Blizzard games will no longer provide their services in China (after the end of the agreement with NetEase), no Chinese players will be invited to this year’s event. This might be changed if a new publishing deal gets struck that brings back Blizzard games to China.
Seemingly, the good news is that all of the events will be streamed both on YouTube and Twitch, with drops confirmed for every tournament.
Between all of that and smaller things like no international broadcasts planned, the future of Hearthstone esports looks pretty grim. At this point, I’m not sure if it will even come back for 2024 at all – maybe if the viewership gets substantially better again after re-introduction of Twitch streams. And I’m not the only one with this opinion – most of the Hearthstone pros and semi-pros share a similar view in their early responses to the announcement.
You can read the official blog post below:
Are you ready for the TENTH YEAR of competitive Hearthstone?! This year is going to look a bit different from the previous few, so let’s get into what is coming to Hearthstone Esports.
Heading into the 2023 season, we have been evaluating the state of our competitive program and the best format for it to take moving forward. Last fall, we began thinking about setting Hearthstone Esports up for sustainability as it turns a decade old, balancing the realities of an ever-changing production landscape, sizing the program according to its audience, and finding the most direct path forward for players to compete. Even though the 2023 program is smaller, this year is poised to bring another exciting year of competitive Hearthstone, with players from across the globe showcasing their skills to earn prizing and join the Hall of Champions.
This year will see a total of seven events–three Masters Tour Seasonal Championships leading into the 2023 World Championship, as well as three standalone Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends tournaments–all broadcast on YouTube and Twitch!
Qualifying for each event will take place through their respective Ladders across three-month seasons. Each Masters Tour and Lobby Legends will feature 16 of the top Ladder players based on Competitive Points earned through monthly standings. The top four Points earners in each region will receive invites, followed by the top four total Points earners, regardless of region that had not yet received an invite.
The specific event dates are currently to be determined and will be shared in the coming months:
Spring Season – Qualification Period: January – March
- Masters Tour Spring Championship – April or May
- Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends Spring Championship – May
Summer Season – Qualification Period: April – June
- Masters Tour Summer Championship – August or September
- Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends Summer Championship – July or August
Fall Season – Qualification Period: July – September
- Masters Tour Fall Championship – November
- Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends Fall Championship – November
As standalone events, each Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends will have a $50,000 (USD) prize pool. Standard players will be competing for one of eight spots at the 2023 World Championship, and its total prize pool of $500,000 (USD). Seasonal Championships will award invites to their champion, who will be joined by the top Points earners for January – November, with the top earner in each region receiving an invite as well as the top two Points earners regardless of region. See the 2023 Hearthstone Masters Tour Official Rules and 2023 Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends Official Rules for eligibility and other important details.
We’ll have more details on the final event dates and how to watch in the coming months, including how to earn Drops while watching. See you in the Tavern!
Will there be Drops on this year’s broadcasts?
- Yes, viewership Drops are returning for 2023. We’ll have more details on how to earn them ahead of each broadcast.
Will there still be regionalized broadcasts?
- Currently, there are no plans to produce regionalized broadcasts.
How come there are only three Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends tournaments?
- We want to focus on one main Battlegrounds event per expansion.
How come the three Masters Tour events don’t have any prize pools?
- With players having a direct qualification path to the world championship by playing ladder, we want to prioritize rewarding the most consistent players over the course of the whole year.
Does this mean that Hearthstone is declining/failing?
- The current scope of Hearthstone Esports is separate from the success of Hearthstone. We are thrilled with the upcoming content plans for the game and can’t wait for players to get to see what is being worked on in the years to come.
Will there be Third Party invites for Masters Tour events?
- While there are no Third Party invites this year, information on hosting community events can be found in the Community Competition Guidelines.
Can I co-stream or re-broadcast the Masters Tours / Lobby Legends programs?
- Participants in Hearthstone Esports events will be allowed to co-stream their participation on a delay unless otherwise specified by Blizzard. Additionally, approved community members will be allowed to co-stream the official PlayHearthstone broadcast. Stay tuned for how to apply to co-stream.
Does this mean HS Esports is being canceled in 2024?
- We don’t have anything to share on the 2024 program at this time.
Is this because of low viewership from being exclusive to YouTube the last three years?
- Our goal is to balance the costs of running esports productions while taking into account the size of the competitive community.
Now that HS Esports can be on Twitch, why not increase funding to bring players back?
- We’re excited for the Masters Tour to be back on Twitch after three years, and are eager to see what our audience there is like. The new program is sized for sustainability as Hearthstone Esports turns 10.
Is the prize pool reduction because of the loss of NetEase as a Chinese publisher?
- No, we began evaluating the size of the program before we understood we weren’t going to be able to reach an agreement with NetEase. As we’ve shared, we are committed to Chinese players and are actively exploring alternatives for bringing our games back to China in the future.
Can players residing in Mainland China compete?
- Players residing in Mainland China will not be eligible to participate. Eligibility may be reevaluated in the event that a new publishing partnership is established in Mainland China. Full eligibility information can be found in the Masters Tour and Lobby Legends Rules.