Hearthstone beta “validated” free-to-play for Blizzard

The flow of cards to free players does slow after level 10 - but Hearthstone is proudly free to play till the highest levels.

When Blizzard launched their Hearthstone beta, they said it was free to play – and they meant it. But they weren’t prepared to see Twitch fill up with streamers who hadn’t bought a single pack, playing Hearthstone at the highest levels.

It was “unexpected but also very reassuring,” said production director Jason Chayes. “We really wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just lip service.”

Well it’s certainly not “lip service” according to our Hearthstone review.

Chayes told Eurogamer that Blizzard needed to ensure players didn’t hit a “monetisation gate” as they levelled up.

“Making sure you could actually earn all the things you needed to be competitive was something we put a lot of time into,” he said.

“Seeing people construct the decks they need to play at the very top levels of play was awesome. So overall we felt very good about how that evolved and how in some ways helped validate our approach, and we feel pretty good about the direction that’s been heading.”

Chayes said Blizzard’s culture of debate helped when it came to managing pricing – an issue the developers have rarely had to tackle in their history of boxed games.

“There’s a lot of internal discussion about things like pricing and how to we make sure there’s good value for when I do choose to buy something, or that I can actually progress as a free-to-play player,” he explained.

“I feel like it’s this crucible where we’re trying to understand what’s the best implementation we can have, and burn away some of the impurities there to get to a point where we’re really happy about it.”

Do you feel Blizzard have burned away all of Hearthstone’s impurities? Or have you encountered a layer of molten slag at the bottom of its blast furnace? Ah, chemistry.