As fans and pros converge on BlizzCon for the climax of the competitive season, you might imagine that Hearthstone esports has found its groove at last, but no! Blizzard is not satisfied! Yesterday the company announced a raft of changes for 2017 that will introduce more international competition throughout the year, adjusted timings and more.
The headline change is the establishment of Global Season Championships, which replace regional championships. Each Global Season Championship in 2017 will take place at a select host region, at venues where fans can attend in person, and will be contested by 16 players (four each from Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and China), with a $250,000 prize pool.
Players will be able to qualify for the Global Season Championships through Season Playoffs, which replace regional season preliminaries. Each region will run a playoff tournament using the Swiss format and will be "more competitive to qualify for, and include deeper prizing to reward more participants". Blizzard said the pool for playoffs would be at least $20,000.
Another big change will be to timing. At the moment, the season concludes around about now and the World Championship finals are held at BlizzCon. No more! Blizzard has deemed it more important to synchronise elite play with the Standard card set, which is defined by the first expansion of the new year, meaning that the next Hearthstone World Championship finals will be played in early 2018 as the next Standard year comes to a close. The prize pool for the World Championship will be $1 million.
What else? Even more international competition and fun stuff, that's what. The first Hearthstone Global Games will take place next year. Like the Overwatch World Cup, this will be about teams representing their countries against one another. Each team in the Global Games will be made up of the top Hearthstone Competitive Point earner from their country and three of their community-voted compatriots.
Finally, Blizzard is planning to run Hearthstone Inn-vitationals (geddit!), which will "showcase a variety of fun Hearthstone formats with some of your favourite Hearthstone personalities". That means popular streamers, esports pros and celebrities. "When a Hearthstone Inn-vitational rolls around, you won't want to miss the zany antics or 'playful banter' that might ensue!" Alright granddad.
All in all it sounds like a pretty solid range of changes and, somewhat incredibly, initial community reaction seems positive. Job's done!