Blizzard teased its announcement at PAX East this year as "a little something, different from our other games." On Friday, the developer behind massive titles like World of Warcraft, Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 announced a new game that is certainly different than its more familiar titles; Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a free-to-play collectible card game spanning Blizzard's usual Windows and Mac OS grounds but also extending to the mobile world, targeting Apple's iPad.
"It's definitely a different sort of game for us at Blizzard," Blizzard's chief creative officer Rob Pardo said. "We've been doing these really huge games for quite a long time, kind of those summer blockbuster sort of games, and it's really left a lot of ideas on the table that we wished we could do.
"We wanted to see, could we make a game with just fifteen developers that was just as epic to play but was much smaller in scope."
That fifteen-person team is simply called "Team 5," being Blizzard's fifth development team, and it was formed in response to what Pardo identified as missed opportunities for the gaming giant.
"As our games have gotten bigger and the development cycles have gotten bigger, there have been these ideas out there that we never felt we could capitalize on or do more with," Pardo said.
"The hope was that Hearthstone is just a stepping stone to be able to do more innovative, experimental games"
He pointed to the active mod community around 2002's Warcraft 3, which included early tower-defense maps and the exceptionally popular Defense of the Ancients mod, the precursor to games like League of Legends, Valve's Dota 2 and even Blizzard's own still-in-development Blizzard All-Stars.
"These are games that we kind of wish we had the opportunity because we saw it happening in our own community but we weren't able to capitalize on it.
"So finally now, we said we want to have a smaller team that can capitalize on these opportunities when we see them rather than always having to kick off a five-year development schedule and ramp up a hundred person team," Pardo said.
When asked if Team 5 would pursue other opportunities besides Hearthstone, Pardo said it's "definitely something [Blizzard would] like to do. "The hope was that Hearthstone is just a stepping stone to be able to do more innovative, experimental games and be able to do things that the bigger teams just aren't structured with their dev cycles or team sizes to be able to do."