What is Hearthstone and why is it so popular?

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Even the most casual and infrequent of gamers will have heard something about Hearthstone over the past few years – perhaps enough to know that it’s a free-to-play collectible fantasy card game. That description alone should give some clues as to why Hearthstone was able to draw in 20 million players in 2014, its first year. Today, there are approximately 70 million regular Hearthstone players. It’s a classic combination after all – Blizzard has mixed elements of the classic card games of our youth with the fun of playing online under the guise of a fantasy character.

The enduring appeal of Warcraft lore

If you don’t already know, ‘Blizzard’ is the mastermind behind one of the most internationally successful games of all time, the iconic World of Warcraft. Hearthstone is also built around the lore from this universe, which brings us to the first point of why this virtual strategy card game has become so popular. Blizzard knows how to create an exciting mythological world that combines adventure with humour. They also already had a huge fan base that was ready to try out any new instalment of the Warcraft universe.

It’s free to play

If the fact that Hearthstone came from Blizzard wasn’t enough to convince some gamers to give it a go – then the fact that the game is completely free would have been what sealed the deal. Sure, you can expedite your advancements within the game by spending some cash on card packs but, as Polygon uncovered, it is perfectly possible to succeed in the game by investing time over money.

The collector’s satisfaction

For the same reason that people have always derived satisfaction from collecting stamps,marbles or coins, players enjoy expanding their deck through either purchasing, unlocking or crafting cards. A personal card collection becomes a source of pride as well as an incentive to keep coming back and advancing within the game. With 700 existing cards and new ones being introduced to all the time through updates, few gamers ever reach the point of having completed their collection.

You can quickly improve

The learning curve in Hearthstone is quite forgiving. It doesn’t take much to be rewarded at the beginning stage. Regular rewards and unlocking of cards helps create a sense of achievement amongst players. The game, though undoubtedly complex and rich in variables, nonetheless becomes fairly straight-forward as soon as one learns the rules. Furthermore, the option to play against the computer is useful in the early stages of learning to play.

Fans of strategy games will enjoy adopting the strategic mind-set required to improve within the game; a strategic style of play that has been likened to that needed in Chess and even poker. In fact, the world’s highest-earning poker player, Daniel Negreanu, is a huge Hearthstone fan. He’s compared it to online poker games in the past, saying; “Obviously, as a professional poker player, I like strategy-based games. For me, I just love the depth of that strategy. There are so many intricate decisions that need to be made, much like poker. The software was just so good and they hook you with the different ways you can play the game and the characters you can choose from. It’s one of those games that looks like I’ll never stop enjoying it and learning new things about it.” Skill-based as it may be, there’s still an element of chance (just like in poker) as one never knows the next card they’ll draw, nor do they know what is contained within any pack they buy or earn.

It’s low-risk

Many strategy games require complete concentration and can be quite stressful if there’s a lot at stake. Hearthstone players are never at risk of losing their cards, and don’t need to worry too much about the consequences of losing many games. As such, Hearthstone allows for a more relaxing gaming experience than some other similar games.

It’s enjoyable to watch

Hearthstone has proved a popular game to stream on Twitch, with many famous channels focused exclusively on the card game. In fact, NewZoo puts the number of Hearthstone viewers on Twitch at 34 million! Some gamers will tune in to pick up on strategy tips and tricks, while other viewers will simply enjoy the suspense of a game between two pro players. 

The convenience of playing

Unlike other typical strategy games like Risk or Chess – Hearthstone does not demand a big time commitment. A match can last as little as twelve minutes, meaning players can fit in a quick game here and then rather than have to wait until they know for certain they have a couple of hours set aside. In being so easy to dip in and out of, Hearthstone players game more frequently.

It’s universally accessible

One doesn’t have to be particularly good at English, familiar with certain cultural references, nor used to a specialized type of gameplay to enjoy Hearthstone. In having such an accessible format and universal appeal, Hearthstone has proven equally popular across numerous different cultures.

Eight reasons that explain how Hearthstone got many millions of gamers hooked on a strategy card game, and eight reasons why its popularity doesn’t look like it’ll dwindle anytime soon…