Hearthstone's free-to-play model 'validated' by beta tests, says Blizzard

Early Twitch streams convinced the studio it was on the right path

The free-to-play model used in Blizzard's trading card game Hearthstone was "validated" as the right decision during its beta phase, according to a key staff member.

Speaking to Eurogamer, the game's production editor Jason Chayes said that watching players stream the beta version on Twitch and do well without spending any money convinced the team that it wasn't being exploitative.


"We really wanted to make sure that it wasn't just lip service to say it's free-to-play and then hit some kind of monetisation gate where you had to buy things," Chayes explained, "so for us making sure you could actually earn all the things you needed to be competitive was something we put a lot of time into".

An example cited by Chayes is Hearthstone player Trump, who streamed the beta on Twitch and reached the game's Legendary rank without spending a single penny.

"Seeing that happen and seeing people construct the decks they need to play at the very top levels of play and seeing that happen through the community was awesome," he said.

"So, overall, we felt very good about how that evolved and how in some ways helped validate our approach, and we feel pretty good about the direction that's been heading."

Hearthstone is a free-to-play card game which launched on iPad worldwide earlier in April, and has been available on PC for several months. Players can spend real cash or earn in-game gold to compete in draft-tournament styled Arenas and buy booster packs.

In CVG's Hearthstone review, we suggested that the pay-to-win model slowly unravels over time, calling it "an essential, endless, enchanting time-sink that is pioneering on iPad, yet somewhat tainted by pay-to-win".