Friday, March 22, 2013

Games People Play

Nice use of the hearthstone symbol there Blizz.... ^^

Twitter pretty much imploded this afternoon on the back of the (pretty surprising) announcement that Blizzard will be entering the mobile gaming market with, of all things, an online Collectable Card Game. You'll be able to get this on your Mac or PC, but it will (most significantly) also be available for your Apple mobile device. Announced at PAX East in Boston, this new idea looks likely to eclipse the Diablo 3 port to console, which is odd, considering this game isn't really close to anything anyone actually expected to be announced. In fact I'm betting on the 'List of Possible Awesome Things Blizzard Could Make', an online CCG is pretty far down the list. I'd go so far as to say it would probably not make most people's lists at all.

Needless to say, the hate (and love, and a lot of 'huh?' if my Twitter feed is any indicator) has already begun in earnest.

The biggest single problem for me, I must say, is the fact it's a card game online. Despite people assuring me I will be hopelessly addicted playing with everyone else before I know it I have a very long relationship with cards, which goes back to my childhood. Even if it were the best game ever made in the history of Blizzard gaming, I'm not going to be interested in playing it. Yes, you can say that's dismissive, and you'd be right, because it is, but I just don't do CCG's. Part of it is a lack of interest, part of it is tied up with people I know who used to play such games but there's just a large part of my life that doesn't have either the time or the inclination. After all, there is only so much of my life I'm able to sacrifice to Blizzard's Masterplan. However, I find myself thinking that this 'format' is likely to deliver some kind of Warcraft tie-in: will it be paying for cards with in-game gold? More likely it'll be Vanity Pets linked with taking up the game to begin with and if that is the case, it becomes a bridge too far.

If this does happen, I'm not buying, and that will be a distinct sea change from my decisions pre-announcement. I understand why they'd do it as well, that linking this game to the Battle Pet brigade would be a master-stroke. However, there have to be some principles for me, and if that means I miss out then so be it. I'll consider it in the same vein as not buying a SC2 Limited Edition just so I can own the vanity pet, and I'll simply move on.

There's been some cracking discussions that have come off the back of this announcement: what Blizzard's long term aims are is one of the biggest. I can see them creating an entirely new 'genre' with this kind of game and giving companies like Wizards of the Coast a real scare. Blizzard may not inhabit meatspace as Magic does, but it's clearly making a big swing at its player base, or at least those who have an interest in such diversions. If they were to do this right (and as its Blizzard are we to doubt they won't?) this could give a lot of card games a run for their money. The future, undoubtedly, is in mobile gaming, and if Hearthstone is to be a test run for further mobile apps, they will do a lot worse than they have by linking everything to You have to think that, somewhere in Blizzard HQ, they're already working on a mobile version of the Battle Pets game that allows you to collect new critters on your mobile device and allows you to transfer those to your characters, and vice versa... after all, al the raw data's already there in game, just waiting to be exploited...

Whatever your take on this new 'concept', you know people will be talking about it over the weekend. #hearthstone is likely to be a global trending hashtag for a while yet, and when your official Twitter account's already got 1500 plus followers less than 30 minutes after the game's announced, you understand your markets only too well. Have you signed up for the Beta?


TheGrumpyElf said...

I will opt into the beta when I get home. I will also probably spend a few bucks on it as well. Definitely will be giving it a try.

But at a life long card player, from grandma teaching me gin at the young age of six, to playing cards with buddies in high school, to going to vegas for some back room antics and playing magic the gathering on the competitive level as well as having played more then a few of the online card games, I can tell you that it will never be able to offer the one thing that makes card playing great. Real social interaction. If you can not see the face of the person you are playing with, card games lose a lot.

Monk PVP Guide said...

I think that the last thing we need is an online card game that game addicts can play from their smart phone while driving their car.