The Un’Goro Disaster
The Journey to Un’Goro Hearthstone expansion released yesterday. While it is probably one of the most unique and interesting sets in terms of card design, Blizzard somehow managed to make a fundamentally stupid blunder that will likely further alienate the player base.
Un’Goro introduced a new set of Quest cards, spells for each of the 9 classes that require you to complete some goal in order to get an extremely strong reward. While some of the quests are quite dull, such as “Play 7 minions with Deathrattle” others are much more varied, such as “Cast 6 spells that didn’t start in your deck”. Regardless of how good these cards are, they at least create unique and interesting deck types to play around with. One could say the entire Un’goro expansion revolves around these Quest cards.
The general idea behind Quest cards seems commendable. However, that’s before you realize that Blizzard made every Quest spell legendary. In order for a player to open or craft all 9 legendary Quest cards they would need to spend hundreds of dollars. Now I’m all for micro transactions and price obfuscation through randomness, but the way this is implemented is just a disaster. In order to play a Quest themed deck, you MUST have the Quest card. This means the average Hearthstone player can only experiment with one or two, and it’s very likely they will never obtain a single one. This is utterly stupid and a waste of potential.
Here’s how you’re supposed to design a rarity system. Make all the Quest cards easy or free to obtain for 100% of players. This allows every player to try the decks and have fun playing them. Then release complementary legendary and epic cards for each quest that must be included for the deck to be competitive, but are not strictly necessary to play. For example, let’s take the Mage Quest. Un’goro introduced three new Mage cards that help you get access to spells that were not originally in your deck. It would have been trivial to make the quest free to obtain and instead make all three of these cards epic or buff them slightly and make them legendary. None of these cards prevent you from making the Mage Quest deck, but without them you may struggle to complete the quest. Players having fun with the Mage Quest will eventually feel obligated to pay up in order to make their deck stronger.
We see this sort of system happen in every single competitive Free2Play game, ranging from League of Legends to Clash of Clans. Give the player a taste of the fun but force them to pay in order to be competitive and keep up with their friends. Even Blizzard did this exact same thing when they released Whisper of the Old Gods. In that expansion there was a new deck type involving a legendary card C’thun. However, instead of forcing every player to spend $100 trying to randomly open it, they gave everyone a copy for free. Then alongside C’thun they released Twin Emperor Vek’lor. What happened? 100% of competitive C’thun decks included Twin Emperor and it was stupid to play the deck without it. However, your average Hearthstone player was still able to mess around with a highly unoptimized version of C’thun Warrior or C’thun Priest.
With the Un’Goro expansion, players will eagerly pay some money to be able to try the new decks and be sorely disappointed when their $50 of packs results in 0 or 1 Quest cards. Again, the problem isn’t that the expansion is too expensive or it’s impossible to get all the cards. The core problems lies in how rarities are assigned. Blizzard could have very easily distributed the rarities in a way that quests are more accessible to all players while still creating a paywall to competitive versions of the decks. Instead, they are left with an expansion that the majority of players are unable to experience. That is not the way to do Free2Play.
And this is coming from someone who has been primarily playing Arena since the expansion came out.