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Blizzard reveals Hearthstone, its first free-to-play game
March 22, 2013 | By Mike Rose

March 22, 2013 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing, Video

Today as part of a panel at PAX East 2013, Diablo III developer Blizzard Entertainment revealed Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, a free-to-play collectible card game based in the popular Warcraft universe.

This is the company's first free-to-play game, and comes as part of its aim to attempt something a bit more experimental and "scrappy" than its usual huge AAA releases, as Blizzard looks to "step outside our comfort zone."

A new team has been set up to create the game within the company, made up of just 15 developers, and the idea is that this will lead to faster development cycles.

Blizzard says that the game will provide over 300 cards to play around with, and players can purchase booster packs to get new cards for their decks. Each pack of new cards will cost around a dollar.

It's currently possible to sign up for the beta at the official Hearthstone website, and Blizzard says the beta will be available this summer, with the full release for the end of the year. The game is coming to Windows PC, Mac, and iPad.

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Christopher Brooks
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Well, there goes all of my money.

But how does this relate to the WOWTCG?

Alex Boccia
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I heard some people say this was a scaled down WOWTCG, can anybody confirm? It seems alright though, I'm happy they went with this, nice, simple but fun (and probably surprisingly deep) concept for an already established blizzard world.

Christopher Brooks
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Looking at the screenshots, I see a lot of similarity with the WOWTCG. But the card rules I could see looked simpler, which is probably a good thing for an online game. Also, it looks like some of the art is swiped from WOWTCG.

Aaron Nakahara
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I'm wondering if it's some kind of gateway drug, presenting TCG mechanics in a simple, free-to-play wrapper that's inviting and easy to use. Get the playerbase started, measure market potential of implementing the full game online, and then roll out a beautifully-designed WoW TCG client (that sources existing in-game models/ability effects for extra eye candy and hook-potential) later.

I remember that leaked 'slate' file that listed WoW TCG as having an online release in 2012 or 2013, with the advent of F2P being a popular hook perhaps Blizzard revised their scheduling and opted to release this 'lite' version to preview gameplay mechanics and build interest.

It does look pretty and I'll be indulging once it releases.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I've been operating from the assumption that F2P is the standard since 2005. I know the big developers have been a bit slow in making the shift, and some (EA in particular) have been a bit haphazard in their rush to change business models. This seems like a very tame way to get their feet wet, which is good since their experiment with real money auction houses on their D3 flagship franchise was a bit careless. It is all a learning and iterative process. Just because you are big does not mean you know how to do something you've never done. Practicing with smaller projects first before going F2P with a AAA project is prudent.

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I'd be all into this if it was a CCG in the style of Phantom Dust. A game like that would probably end up as the first F2P game that I put money into and the first game I spent over a hundred dollars on.