Game publisher Activision Blizzard has unveiled new details about the upcoming season for Hearthstone, its competitive card game.
The Hearthstone competitive landscape will undergo a downsizing, with less events and smaller prize pools. The 2023 season will also not include Chinese players.
Hearthstone is entering its tenth season in 2023, making it one of the longest-lasting competitive games available. A significant downsizing effort is underway for this competitive season, though Blizzard has not pulled the plug on Hearthstone in the manner it did for Heroes of the Storm esports in 2018.
The main changes are a reduction in prize pool size for the main esports events from $1.5m (~£1.2m) in 2022 to around $500,000 (~£405,000) in 2023, as well as a total of seven events. The 2023 season will however see the return of the World Championship and the Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends tournaments.
Hearthstone is also returning to Twitch after a period of exclusivity on YouTube. The deal between Activision Blizzard and YouTube ended in 2022 — other Activision Blizzard leagues, such as the Call of Duty League, also returned to Twitch in 2023. Selected channels will also be able to co-stream the tournaments on their own channels.
There will be no regional broadcasts of Hearthstone esports games in 2023. Chinese players will also no longer be able to play following the fraught cancellation of NetEase and Activision Blizzard’s Chinese distribution partnership.
In an article shared on Hearthstone’s official website, the developer said the aim for 2023 is to “balance the realities of an ever-changing production landscape,” and added:
“[We are] sizing the programme according to its audience, and finding the most direct path forward for players to compete. Even though the 2023 program is smaller, this year is poised to bring another exciting year of competitive Hearthstone.”
Interestingly, in an FAQ section of the announcement, the developer included a question about Hearthstone Esports being cancelled in 2024. “We don’t have anything to share on the 2024 program at this time,” the listed answer reads.