This article is inspired by the question
What is Hearthstone and why is it so popular?
What is Hearthstone?
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a collectiable-card game (CCG) now available on PC, Mac, Android and Ios. And as the name suggests, it starts off with the theme of characters adapted from Blizzard’s phenomenal MMORPG World of Warcraft (WoW).
“Deceptively simple and insanely fun” is the slogan Blizzard uses to present the game. l think it’s a good one.
Why is it so popular?
Instead of giving a general account of why the game has become a huge success as it is now, I would like to dive deep and recount the journey of my stumbling upon the game and (still) being hooked ever since its release.
The First Hook
I learnt about Hearthstone by playing WoW. My simple goal was to get the Hearthsteed－ special mount as a reward of trying Hearthstone with the sameaccount and winning a total of three games in any mode against human players. Not special at all, I know. But whoever came up with this marketing campaign did a great job. What better target potential customers than WOWers. For those who would spend days for a mount, the two-hour at most spent on Hearthstone sure guaranteed a well-paid quest.
And so I installed the game and completed the tutorial like everyone did. It went smooth. I picked up the game’s basics pretty quickly despite having no prior experience of CCG, or that of any type of strategic card game for that matter.
And then I was left with Jeana. Little did I know that she didn’t even have access to the most powerful basic card in the game － Flamestrike, which was granted to the player who levelled up the mage hero to lv 10. But it all looked fun. Every card looked so familiar－they all came from WoW － and yet so novel － the card itself, its artwork and text and mechanics－at once.
That was why I played on － after gaining the three wins required for the mount fairly easily. There was so little prior knowledge you needed (or so it seemed) － as every card was self-explanatory with its text, yet so much to learn about － what else could I get if I continued to level up my character by playing and winning more?
That’s right. I played Hearthstone initially as if I were playing WoW or other RPG I was so used to － I wanted to see my character grow and gained everything gainable.
The Different Modes
But Hearthstone is not a RPG. And it does not intend to be one. It has a set of mechanics very different from any game I came across before. For one, it offers distinct modes of playing － constructed, casual and the arena.
If one becomes frustrated with the repeated loses in constructed (which normally does not happen at Rank 25 as an Angry Chicken), he can always turn to another mode to experience the game in a different light. Take the arena mode as an example. With its basic entry fee (150 gold / few real dollars) and its mechanics of picking over three cards － of all the cards available in the game － a time, for thirty times in a row to form a thoroughly unique deck to compete with others’ decks drafted in exactly the same manner, offers to the new player like me an entirely different experience than playing with the basic cards in constructed mode. Before I got frustrated enough to rage quit, I constantly encountered something new and rewarding in the initial learning stage.
The results? I did not return to WoW for quite a few months because I was so absorbed in Hearthstone.
As I learn more and become better at the game, I wanted to be even better. So I started to look beyond the game itself and found an equally interesting part of it － its community. I found Twitch－and with it streamers such as Trump, Amaz and Forsen － and for the first time learnt that there are hundreds of thousands who would eagerly watch another individual play the video game, and even pay to the guy simply to support them to continue to do so. I learnt that cute girls and girls with cleavage get easy donations. I also learnt that there were not only matches between friends, but also major tournaments for a popular game － and “professional” gamers and “coaches” actually make a career out of it. I found Hearthpwn, with its tribes of brilliant people writing enthusiastically and so well about their inventions out of the game. I found Youtube channels capturing the odd and insane moments in the game, only understood and thus enjoyed by insiders like myself. In short, I did not just stumble across a random game. I found a whole new world. And there were worlds and layers within this world I can opt to explore.
And that was only a little recount of my surprising journey of Hearthstone.
What more can a game deliver?
Well, there are other things , actually. But it is another story.