Hearthstone has been going through...a bit of a tumultuous time as of late. The high points of the 10th Anniversary celebration, plus the release of Whizbang's Workshop and Battlegrounds Duos, have been countered by the lows of the on-going battle over our time and money as consumers, with Blizzard seeking to extract as much of them as they can. The conversation has been...spirited, to say the least, and of course I have my own thoughts on the matter at hand. How this will all play out with the playerbase remains to be seen, but I for one have drawn my line in the sand (spoiler alert). So how did we get to this point? Let us make a thorough examination of the evidence:

The (Recent) Evidence

I'm not going to lay out all the various ways Blizzard has tried to screw with us players over the years - I'm not subjecting you to such a long read, nor myself to such a long writing process. This is focused squarely on the period of time in-and-around the 10th Anniversary and Whizbang's Workshop, up to the release of Battlegrounds Duos and Patch 29.2. I could be forgetting something, in which case feel free to make note of it in the comments below.

Exhibit A: Corridor Sleeper & "Early Access" Cards

Corridor Sleeper Card Image

Two copies of Corridor Sleeper were provided to those who bought a Preorder Bundle; those who did not pony up money would have to wait a month or so to gain regular access to this minion. To say we dodged a bullet is an understatement: Corridor Sleeper was not very meta-relevant during this Early Access window, and that is thankfully a good thing. But this could just be the start of a major swing toward a "Pay 2 Win" mentality, with Blizzard testing the waters. If the power-level of these Preorder cards grows to where they can have an actual impact on the flow of gameplay, people will be heavily encouraged to buy the Preorder to keep up...which is what they want from us in the first place.

Exhibit B: The Harth to Harth Bundle

Harth Stonebrew was a celebratory card for the 10th Anniversary, given out to anyone who logged in during the window. But the golden version (plus diamond Harth) were offered in an inexplicable real-money bundle, put together despite only being able to use one at a time. The golden version remains uncraftable; it is now, presumably, forever lost to people given that the Harth to Harth bundle is out of the shop.

Exhibit C: Scaling Back of Completion Rewards/Achievements

These both fall under the same umbrella: pulling back on features and the means by-which players can be rewarded for their effort. In a strictly quantifiable sense, less Achievements means less opportunites for bonus XP, but it also means less in general for the most-engaged players to strive for. We wanted Achievements, after a long time we got them, and now they're being shaved back.

Alongside this, we've lost the free diamond Legendary we used to receive for acquiring enough Legendaries from the latest set. Instead, we now get Signatures of a Common and a Rare; they may be decent looking, but they're not equivalent by any means. Blizzard chose to strip out this free diamond card so they could sell them to us instead, via the Diamond King Plush bundle, Diamond Owlonius bundle, and other offerings.

Exhibit D: The Destruction (and Subsequent Removal) of Duels

Duels was a fun mode for those who got a kick out of the higher power-levels and Dungeon Run-esque qualities of the bucket system. But it also wasn't profitable: Arena Tickets were given out as occasional rewards, plus you could just play regular runs without spending a Ticket at all, meaning people weren't buying into the mode. Some conspiracy-minded circles like to believe that Blizzard sabotaged Duels on purpose, messing with the buckets to make the mode less desirable to play while also scaling back any additional updates. The results were obvious and expected: less people played Duels, allowing Blizzard to point at those numbers and justify its out-and-out removal, much to the dismay of its fans.

Exhibit E: Increasing Weekly Quest Requirements

Doubling or tripling of the requirements for Weekly Quests, in exchange for a slight increase in XP gains. "Play 16 Miniaturize or Mini cards" became "Play 60 Miniaturize or Mini cards" (multiplied by 3.75, or almost quadrupled). Blizzard "listened to the feedback", but this was all part of the negotiating plan: they intended to overshoot on the numbers and gauge our reaction. If players didn't complain, great; if they did - as many have - they could partially scale back their decision and use it as an example of them being the good guys for us. The same ending came to pass regardless, that being the increase of required engagement for an unequivalent increase in reward, resulting in less overall XP (and by extension, more work to acquire the same amount of gold from the track).

Player Sentiment

While perhaps small(er) in significance at an individual level, each of the things described above have left a bad taste in the mouths of players. The overall pattern is, in my eyes, pretty clear: Blizzard is researching new ways to sell us their product, and will resort to cutting back on freebies if that's what it takes. The veneer of the 10th Anniversary and all the rewards we were promised was only to cover over what was coming, the toll that would be extracted to keep playing.

An astute reader might notice that I have barely mentioned Hearthstone's current meta. Sentiment about the meta can ebb and flow over time, relying on a wave of opinion that can be hard to track at any given moment. Unfortunately, the overall notion for the Anniversary period has been that people have been getting blown out of the water by uninteractive comboes, defeated by randomness, or having their fun Reno shenanigans pre-countered by Plagues (with the answer, Steamcleaner, having since rotated out of Standard). Wild continues to be a race to win by turn 5 or less, with slower strategies generally pushed aside unless they can amount such a defense that usually results in a nerf.

Of course, I've seen this movie before, and will probably end up seeing it again in the future, which begs the question: why? Why subject ourselves to the same cycle of hype and grief, driven by empty promises for a fun tomorrow and the occasional win that is subsequently taken away from us? What do we get out of it, really? Is it truly worth the cost, both in our time and money? I frankly don't think it does...not anymore.

So...What Now?

The answer is simple enough, for me at least: I'm uninstalling Hearthstone. I've taken my last ride on the rollercoaster of emotional turmoil; I've come to the realization that my relationship with Blizzard has become toxic and abusive, and I need to get out of it. Hearthstone has had its high moments across 10 years, and the game is frankly still fun at the end of the day. That doesn't mean this is a healthy coexistence.

Whether or not the game respects me, my time, or my money has always been a rocky situation at best, but it has become clear - in my own personal experience - that Hearthstone simply doesn't want people like me anymore.  As it is I don't play enough to justify my "whale" status, and now the game demands even more of me to stay afloat, while offering less. Rather than risk drowning, I'll just...get out of the water. Money is a precious resource in this world, and you can't get your time back, so I'd rather offer them to someone who doesn't seek to exploit me on the regular.

What the player base at large does is, of course, another matter entirely. Isolated examples such as myself who decide to boycott their spenditures or finally quit outright might not damage Blizzard too much, but hey: every stone thrown in the pond makes waves. We as a community can decide to just keep taking it on the chin, or we can raise our voices until something is done about it. Thankfully enough people spoke out about the Weekly Quest requirements being increased so significantly, but Blizzard's solution was not to backpedal completely...merely to "meet us halfway". They're still going through with this plan to slow XP gains (and as a result, reward-gains); players should not forget this, nor frankly forgive it.

And that is true of all of the negative changes that were recently brought about: companies rely on players having short memories and flash-in-the-pan anger responses so they can get away with their bullshit. This means, ultimately, that the best thing you can do is make your voice heard. Bitch on Reddit until your fingers bleed, make YouTube videos about how bad these policies are for consumers, and of course, withhold your hard-earned money if you think they don't deserve it anymore. Challenge your own complacency with the situation, so-as-to challenge their bottom line. Because how else are they gonna listen?

I, for one, have chosen to leave Hearthstone behind. Marvel Snap, too: I'm putting my money where my mouth is, and pulling the plug on games that I enjoy because I can no longer justify their existence in my life. That may not be the answer for you, at this time or otherwise, and that's okay: I'm no revolutionary seeking to tear down the game, the company, or the industry at large. But if you care about how games like Hearthstone (mis)treat your fellow players, or are questioning your own relationship with the system, then please consider taking steps to bring about necessary change. Don't clutch to blind faith that things will improve - or even stay the course - without at least acknowledging that, sometimes, we as consumers only get to keep our precious shinies if we fight for them. Or taking our ball and going home; whichever works.

So fight on, my brethren: don't ever let them take your candle. This Kobold is taking her candle and walking off into the sunset (or at least, exiling herself back to Single-Player Land).

...I think my metaphors were all over the place, but hopefully you get the idea lol.

What do you think of Hearthstone's 10th Anniversary, and how it has been received by the playerbase? Does this mark the beginning of the end for the game? Let us know in the comments below!