The whole Star Wars: Battlefront 2 fiasco got me thinking about collections from loot boxes and a collectible card game (CCG) that I used to enjoy dearly: Hearthstone.
After the Star Wars: Battlefront 2 fiasco caused by EA’s greed on the operation of its loot boxes, I couldn’t help but think back to how addicted they are. I played a lot MMORPG’s in the past, and loot boxes can be really addictive. My most recent experience with loot-box-like systems was in Hearthstone, a game that I play very minimally now.
Hearthstone’s loot box system involves card packs, where you open packs to find five cards of various possible rarities inside. Hearthstone advertises itself as a collectible card game. It encourages you to try and collect all the cards.
Now, if you have been following this blog for a while, you will know that I posted a very pointed rant on Hearthstone a while back. You can read that rant here, if you’re interested. But, as I mentioned earlier, I no longer play Hearthstone a lot. I basically just log in, play a few games to become eligible for that seasonal card back, and leave, never to log in until the next season.
You might be tempted to think that the reason I quit Hearthstone was because of what I mentioned in my earlier post. If you haven’t read it, I talked about the stale meta, unfair boss fights and boring esports casts. However, the reason is quite different, and it relates to the “collectible” part of “collectible card game” that Hearthstone claims to be.
I’m have no shame in saying that I have invested a lot of money into Hearthstone. I would ca;a “whale” for this game. At least, until after I quit. I pre-ordered every adventure, and every expansion, I’d spend hundreds of dollars to ensure I had every single card in the set. That’s a lot of money. This was despite my issues with the unfair gameplay and stale meta.
However, the straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when Blizzard announced exclusive card backs. These card backs could only be obtained by placing high (top 8 or something) in tournaments. This instantly meant that there was no way I could ever attain the card back. Despite me having ladder anxiety, I have a full-time job. I can’t simply take a few months off to practice and participate in a tournament.
Now, it might seem weird that such a small thing would cause me to quit a game. But the one thing you need to understand about me is that I’m a completionist. If it wasn’t already so obvious from my collection (especially the Kinder Surprise and McDonald’s collections), if I invest in a collection, I want to be able to complete it. And it is not only me that shares this sentiment. Part of the appeal of collectible card games is the collectibility aspect of it. People like these games because they can work towards a goal, no matter how long it takes.
I feel the greatest mistake that Hearthstone has made is lock people out of the running to obtain parts of the collection. For example, the Golden Gelbin Mekkatorque is forever unobtainable (it was a reward for participating in the beta). Likewise, every past month’s card back is also unobtainable, as card backs do not repeat. This puts off a lot of people, including me. I want to be know that a collection can be completed. It doesn’t matter to me how long it takes.
This is also why the loot box system (which started this whole flow of thought) in Hearthstone doesn’t bother me. Many people have complained that Hearthstone is a very expensive game to be competitive in, which is true. The drop rates for good cards are very low. Also, the dust that you get from disenchanting cards you don’t need is miniscule compared to the costs of cards. Not only that, the meta settles so quickly that there are only a handful of cards you need to be competitive. Now, if you’re lucky enough to get those cards while opening packs, you’re set. But if you’re not, it can be very expensive to craft them individually.
But as I said earlier, this aspect doesn’t bother me. As long as I know that eventually, I can have all the cards, I don’t really have a problem with it. Now, as far as cards go, I can have all the cards, because I have all the exclusives. But I can’t have all the card backs. The tournament card back is (as of now) impossible for me to get. So I see no point in investing the time, money and effort into trying to complete my collection. This is especially when Blizzard can put out a new card back that is even more difficult to attain.
So, how can Blizzard correct this? If they were to make all cards and card backs (including exclusives) craftable, it would definitely be a very big factor into me getting back into the game. If a card back is unattaible through normal means, I’d like the ability to craft it. The problem is, the Hearthstone team sees these exclusives as a way of “showing off”. However, they fail to understand that by creating these exclusives, they put off people that are completionists, such as myself. And sometimes, completionists are willing to spend a lot of money on the game.
This is just another example about how much the Hearthstone team doesn’t seem to realize the potential the game has. While the game is doing very well, it could be doing even better. All this done by implenting very simple systems in the game that do not cost the company anything except staff hours to put those systems in place.
But I’m not complaining, I’ve already got a lot of other avenues I’m spending my money in. My Supergirl collection is taking quite a serious toll on my wallet as I try to expand it. Additionally, I’m currently investing in another “secret project” that I will be revealing within a few months if all goes well. But it’s just a shame to see what kind of game Hearthstone could be if the developers actually understood the audience they are catering too.