Recently, a survey went out to select Hearthstone players, asking for their input on a new Battle Pass system that would fundamentally replace the Hearthstone economy. Rather than earning gold through daily quests, game wins, and achievements, the new system would provide players with rewards – like packs, gold, arena tickets, cards, and cosmetics – for achieving a certain amount of experience in game (presumably, this would be acquired via playing Hearthstone’s game modes or engaging with the game in some other ways).
While there’s nothing wrong with such a system in theory, the numbers are important. Reworking such a fundamental aspect of the game is a big step, especially for a game that many players consider expensive to keep up with. Unfortunately, the numbers on the survey were anything but flattering, amounting to something that looked remarkably less generous than the existing reward structure. To put that in context, I can currently jump into a new expansion with about 180 packs for free on day 1 of an expansion (because I play a lot). The numbers on the survey would have reduced that to 40 upfront, and that would have been the free cap.
The response to these numbers wasn’t positive, naturally. While it’s not clear why such low numbers were provided on the survey in the first place, some clarifications were later provided by Game Director Ben Lee during their recent AMA on Reddit. Specifically, Ben mentioned the numbers on the survey are not going to reflect the eventual reward structure of the new Battle Pass system. Though we did not receive any specifics regarding what the eventual numbers would be, we were assured that the new system should not make players worse off.
You can find his full reply here, but there are two parts from it I wanted to highlight:
We are also planning on repackaging (not reducing) the current rewards that you can obtain in Hearthstone and put that information in-front of you in an easy to view and understand manner…I’ll use myself as the example here. I reach Legend every month, during an expansion cycle I typically earn more than 5,000 Gold (I would not expect to earn less under the new system).
And, in a follow-up comment:
The 5,000 gold that I reference is my personal experience based on how much I am able to play per expansion. Yours would be different depending on how much time you can put in. This is categorically not a statement that the system is capped at 5,000 Gold.
I believe Ben sets a very clear expectation regarding what we should see out of the new in-game rewards system: No player should expect that the new Battle Pass rewards will provide them less gold than they currently receive, relative to their effort.
For example, if you’re the type of player who only completes their daily quests and receives about 6,000 gold from them per expansion (for the sake of easy numbers, 50 gold per day, times 120 days between expansions, even if that underestimates daily quest rewards a bit), you should expect to receive at least that much gold for the same amount of effort under the new system. Logging in each day or three to clear some dailies requires relatively little game time, so that much should be earnable in 4 months time without almost any effort.
We can also consider the current ceiling. No player should expect that the ceiling for in-game rewards comes down either. Currently, that amounts to approximately 18,000 gold per expansion cycle. That includes the 6,000 gold for the daily quests and the 12,000 additional gold from achieving 30 wins each day (100 gold per day, times 120 days). Again, this underestimates a bit, but the numbers are clean.
If the new system is simply repackaging these rewards (and not reducing them), the collective player base should expect that the new system provides at least as much gold for the same amount of effort. The type of reward earned shouldn’t change. The ceiling for rewards should not fall. The amount of effort required to achieve those rewards should not increase. Each part of that idea is important:
- Reward Type: We want the system to at least reward the same amount of gold so you can purchase packs of your choosing. It’s easy to see why reward type is important, and why gold can’t just be substituted for other rewards, like packs or arena runs. Imagine you wanted to get 40 packs of the newest expansion on release day. When you purchase them, however, Blizzard decides you’ll actually receive 30 packs of the newest expansion and 10 from the previous one, claiming the overall value of 40 packs is the same. If that scenario doesn’t sit well with you, you can see why rewarding gold is better than rewarding packs.
- Similarly, if the new system rewards the same amount of gold/packs, but over a longer period of time, it’s worse as well. Players want to jump into an expansion day 1. If your purchase of 40 packs from a new set was maintained, but you only got 30 packs on day 1 and then 10 over the next few weeks, that would be worse value as well.
- If pack rewards work as an additional bonus to the earned gold, that’s fine; good, even. But unless you want Blizzard telling you what packs you’re allowed to get and when you’re allowed to get them, gold offers a freedom no other currency does.
- Reward Ceiling: Most players are not grinders. They will not achieve the current (or future) ceiling of rewards on offer. However, it’s in the interests of no players for that ceiling to get lower. If you do earn the maximum number of rewards, a lower ceiling is worse for you. If you don’t, then a lower ceiling is irrelevant. It is better for no one. So, in theory, the new Battle Pass should be capable of rewarding up to at least 18,000 gold in four months. It can reward other things along the way, but it should be capable of rewarding that current cap. We don’t need it to be lower.
- Reward Effort: If the new system offers the same type of reward in the same amounts (both on average and in total without any delays), we should also expect the amount of effort to achieve those rewards will not go up. I’ll use myself as an example: it takes me about 5-6 hours of play per day, on average, to approach the current gold cap (which comes with streaming for about as long). If the new system provided the same amount of gold, it should not take me more than 5-6 hours per day to achieve it. Similarly, if you only log in every 3 days to do dailies and then log out for about 6,000 gold each 4 months, the new Battle Pass should not take more than that amount of time to reach that milestone either. If the new system offers the same rewards, but demands more of you to get them, it’s a worse system that values your time less.
I should stress all this is the minimum we should expect. Perhaps we should expect something better than what we currently have, but at a minimum we should want the new system to be no worse for anyone.
There is no reason the new Battle Pass needs to be less generous for anyone to make it more generous for others. Any idea that grinders need to have their reward cap reduced so that the casuals can see their average rewards increase is a fiction. Remember, the rewards in Hearthstone come in a made-up currency, based in a made-up economy. The parameters here are 100% within the control of the people making the system. The system could be more generous for all players tomorrow if that’s what they wanted. It could stay as generous to some while getting more generous to others. There’s no need for it to become any less generous to anyone.
If these milestones can be achieved, then the Battle Pass system would be a net gain for everyone. Players could make as much or more on the game than they currently do for their time, while Blizzard could now offer options to pay for additional rewards, like cosmetic unlockables, or encourage engagement through the Battle Pass. We get our content; Blizzard gets their money. Everyone wins.
If these milestones cannot or will not be achieved, then the expectations laid out by Ben Lee would be misleading. Don’t become complacent with any of these milestones not being met because you think they don’t apply to you, or won’t have a big impact. If Blizzard learns players are willing to accept small reductions and worse systems here and there, then Blizzard will implement them as long as they are profitable. Large changes can be made through small, incremental steps, and tolerating any step along the way is a path to tolerating another. So long as players are looking out for each other and ensure that Blizzard upholds the expectations laid out here, we can all be better off.