Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
 
Our players are so unpleasant, we charge you not to play them

Blizzard sent me a mail telling me that I'm about to miss the free Arachnid wing of the Naxxramas expansion for Hearthstone. I don't mind, I'm not a big fan of Hearthstone. Although Hearthstone has the better interface, I still prefer the more complex Magic 2015 to the dumbed down Blizzard version. But what caught my attention about Curse of Naxxramas was the business model: PvP is free, but each wing of Naxxramas costs 700 gold or $6.99, or $19.99 for the 4 wings you can't get for free. Which is pretty steep if you consider that "Naxxramas" in Hearthstone is just a series of 15 decks you have to play against in two difficulty levels, and not some fancy animated 3D environment. People will do it to get the 30 special Naxxramas cards, but on the surface we have a game where PvE costs money and PvP is free.

Now of course the headline is a bit sarcastic. Hearthstone has extremely limited player communication, which very much limits how unpleasant you can be to your opponent. You can stall, or spam emotes, but during the match that is pretty much it. But somehow it appears strange to me that you would have to pay to escape from playing against real players and play against the AI instead. And I don't really see the advantage of that system over making Naxxramas free and selling the cards in boosters. After all, if the cards are any good in PvP, the PvP players will complain about Pay2Win anyway, as they'll have to pay for Naxxramas to get them.

Comments:
I don't think anyone will play Naxramas PvE longer than it takes to get all the cards. You pay for the cards to use later in PvP.
 
I don't quite understand why you would do a post like this if it's not for the eye-catching title.
The reason you pay for Naxxramas is that you get a Legendary at the end of the wing, so it's just a alternate way to pay compared to boosters.
It just has nothing to do with PvP, PvE or the nastiness of players.
 
And it's VERY easy to pay with in-game money. If you play 2-3 hours per week, you can pay for all the wings with gold easily. I do agree that the price is a bit steep for a relatively straightforward card game. The interface and (much) lower learning curve draws me towards Hearthstone over Magic 2015.
 
The reason you pay for Naxxramas is that you get a Legendary at the end of the wing, so it's just a alternate way to pay compared to boosters.

But that is exactly the sort of muddled game design I hate! How can you be sure that 100% of the players who pay for Naxxramas do it for the legendaries? And even if it was so, why not just sell them boosters instead of making them jump through hoops? Especially if the devs announce that those hoops are designed to be "unfair".

I think it is very relevant to know whether Hearthstone is a single-player PvE game or a multi-player PvP game, and the expansion makes the answer less clear than ever.
 
But that is exactly the sort of muddled game design I hate! How can you be sure that 100% of the players who pay for Naxxramas do it for the legendaries?

Because the combats are absolutely uninteresting? I was bored after the first one and I re-quit Hearthstone immediately. The friend I have who "plays seriously" (who, BTW, already has enough gold to buy all wings without $) proceeded to clear in one hour the entire wing (normal + HM), the only useful thing he got being the card.
You seriously think that adding THREE AI combats to the games muddles the fact that it's PvP?
 
Three? I read it was fifteen. Times two if you count normal and heroic. And Naxxramas was certainly *marketed* as a PvE expansion. Quote: "Curse of Naxxramas pits solo Hearthstone players against a series of iconic, necrotic bosses, each with its own unique powers and cards to command."
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
3 is the first wing.
Also, since it is a solo expansion, it is indeed marketed as solo since it is solo, anything else would be confusing reality in marketing or creating false expectations.

I mean, I understand not liking HS (I prefer magic myself), and can certainly follow the argument about price (although I do not find it so steep, due to ingame gold to buy).

I just do not get your title, or the relevance of that part. It really seems like you went to search for a needle in a haystack to be able to make a sensationalist title.
 
It's an alternative to just launching an expansion of boosters. Such a limited card pool would be either very quick or very annoying to collect anyway, so I appreciate the "alternate packaging".
 
I just do not get your title

The title is just one possible extreme interpretation of this rather weird business model. You're telling me that Hearthstone at its core is a PvP game. PvP in Hearthstone is for free. Blizzard is adding more PvE to Hearthstone, and then prices it very steeply. Can't you see that to somebody who actually prefers PvE this looks as if he would have to pay extra for the privilege of not having to play against other players?
 
It is a disguised pay-2-win scheme. If they offered booster packs, the disguise would be missing.
 
A couple of words regarding the PvE part in Hearthstone: once you beat it and get the one time reward there is no point whatsoever to do it again.

You start the game with a few basic cards. These are enough to beat the normal difficulty AI without adjusting the deck at all. You level your hero to 10 to get all the guaranteed basic cards for him. Level 10 is reached upon about 9 wins, what a coincidence there are 9 hero classes. Just beat every hero once and you're done.

The cards you get by leveling to 10 do not get put in your deck, you'll have to build your own and that is necessary to beat the expert difficulty AI. You get some gold for beating all hero classes on expert and that's it. The expert AI hasn't any special random tricks, beat them once beat them everytime. No other rewards so no point in playing the expert AI. If you build a new deck it is pointless to test it against AI because the AI doesn't use other decks, you better test in unranked PvP.

You get gold as rewards in PvP to buy booster packs to get more and better cards, or you pay money for the boosters.

Now Naxxramas arrives. By beating the AI of Naxxramas you get a guaranteed set of new cards. Once you have all the cards there is no point in playing the AI again, see above there is no new challenge and no new rewards, testing decks with these new cards is better done in PvP.

All that the "solo experience" of Naxxramas really does is guarantee that you get the new cards without the luck of opening booster packs.
 
Official D&D Modules: Your DM's homebrewed campaign is so atrocious, we'll charge you not to play it.
 
It seems strange to you that they would try to get you to pay for the part you like better?
 
It seems strange to you that they would try to get you to pay for the part you like better?

How would you describe Hearthstone? Isn't it a PvP game with a veneer of solo PvE? Why make people pay for the veneer (which is there to make the game attractive to a wider audience) and make the core free? Shouldn't it be the other way around?
 
How would you describe Hearthstone? Isn't it a PvP game with a veneer of solo PvE? Why make people pay for the veneer (which is there to make the game attractive to a wider audience) and make the core free? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Nope, this is how F2P functions. It offers you the core for free and then depending on the studio they will try to sell you (for RL cash) the following:

a) power not otherwise obtainable (P2W)
b) Quality of life improvements (boosts, extra action bars, etc)
c) Cosmetics (skins, statless gear for the looks, etc)

Take SWtOR for instance, they offer the levelling and class stories for free and they sell (b) and (c) either directly or through the sub. In the case of Hearthstone, they are selling quality of life improvements, by allowing you to buy packs and solo adventures (aka more cards) without having to grind the gold for it.
 
Let's make a Starcraft 2 analogy. People play online for years against player opponents because that's effectively new content each time. PvP is its own content.

However, Blizzard charges you for a new campaign because Blizzard has to generate all the content. Very, very few people will play the campaigns time and time again, in stark contrast to online play.
 
Nils reckons it's a disguised Pay-to-Win scheme. I'm not so sure.

1. The cards one wins are a great addition to your deck, but they aren't OP. Okay, let's say that to be competitive at the top level, you still need to have these cards available. This leads me to:

2. Who is really going to pay real money? Not regular Hearthstone players. They already have a ton of in-game gold saved up from just playing the game. It's people who play more casually who will pay real money to catch up. They are paying money so I can play for free, for which I thank them. Blizzard has to monetize this game somehow.

I understand why you would describe it as Pay2Win, Nils, but I think of it in the terms that Gevlon once used: pay not to lose.

In a card game, everyone should share a level playing field. If a card is available to me, it should be available to you, and vice-versa. With this pay-not-to-lose scheme, Blizzard is exacting a toll on casual player to bring them up to level par.

But the game isn't about collecting cards, it's about playing them. You win by devising cleverer decks than your opponent, even if both of you have all cards available to build your deck of 30 from.

By the way, I wouldn't be so happy with this in Azeroth (at least in its PvE aspect). That is a game of collecting. Gear. You "win" in Azeroth by collecting gear. If you can buy that gear with euros, there's no point in the collection game. All that would be left would be PvP.

By the way, I had another idea of how Blizzard could monetize Hearthstone by giving regular players something they would want to buy (well, that I would want to buy, anyway). It's over here on my blog.
 
Who is really going to pay real money? Not regular Hearthstone players.

Define regular! To have 2,800 gold sitting around means that you played so much, you couldn't possibly get any new card any more in a booster. I wonder for how big a percentage of the Hearthstone players that is true, but I doubt it is a majority.

As long as you can still buy useful boosters with gold, 700 gold is an opportunity cost which isn't really different from paying cash.
 
I take your point, Tobold, but honestly, 2800 gold isn't all that much and you don't need to have amassed it all by today. There are three more weeks to go. And if you don't amass it inside those three weeks, well take a fourth or a fifth week. For an average player like me, it's not a race.


 
F2P games very rarely charge for the core mechanic. Payment normally goes towards cosmetic changes, power boosts or extra plays.

For Hearthstone the core is free to play and you pay extra for power (cards) or arena play (extra plays). The expansion model is to make you play for extra cards (power) while presenting it to you in the form of a side-game.
 
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