One of the most frequently requested additions for Hearthstone since the game's launch has been a proper tournament mode — something to allow for more structured, long-term competitive play versus the single-match games currently available in ranked, casual and Arena modes. With an expansion titled The Grand Tournament and themed around, well, tournaments, many fans thought this would be the perfect opportunity for introducing a tournament mode.
"we have to figure out...when is the right time"
When we asked Hearthstone game director Eric Dodds why Blizzard decided not to include tournament mode with The Grand Tournament, he called it an "interesting question."
"Having a tournament mode is certainly a cool idea," Dodds said. "As with a lot of things, we have to figure out what is the right thing to do and also when is the right time to do things."
In this case, both of those factors were working against tournament mode. Dodds explained that Blizzard felt the game needed a new mode that was more fun and silly and less competitive-focused, since ranked and Arena modes already cover the latter.
"We felt like we wanted to give players a lot of different ways of engaging with the game," Dodds said. "You could still play Arena or ranked mode, but between expansions the meta is substantially similar. It changes over time, but it's similar between those two modes."
Thus Blizzard's recent addition of Tavern Brawl, a goofy new mode that offers rotating rule-changing challenges every week. Technically Tavern Brawl was released as a free update to the game, not tied to any expansion. But since it hit so recently, that also made Blizzard step back from the idea of considering a tournament mode right now.
"It's about what is the most important thing for the game," Dodds said. "Right now we feel like the most important thing for the game was Tavern Brawl, which is why we just got that in there. We definitely will be doing things in the future, but all of these things take time for us to create. We want to give them time to be out in the community and breathe before we move on to the next thing."
While reaction to Tavern Brawl has often been mixed from week to week, Dodds and his team consider it a huge success so far.
"It's about what is the most important thing for the game"
"When a Tavern Brawl comes out, half of the players thing its amazing, and the other half don't feel like it's their thing," he said. "That was really our goal from the beginning — to constantly be engaging different parts of the community. Hey, if you like this thing, we're going to do it in Tavern Brawl. Next week: Hey, if you prefer this other thing, we're going to do it in Tavern Brawl."
That attitude also ties in to Tavern Brawl's current reward scheme, which offers up a free pack of cards for winning once each week.
"The reason we have this incentive is because we want everyone to try it each week," said Dodds. "If you don't like it one week, that's totally cool. Just go away, and next week there will probably be one that you will like. And if you love it? Great, go ahead and engage with it. But we didn't want to have a reward scheme that forced people who may not love any particular week to play it."
While we may be waiting some time yet for the long-desired tournament mode, you can read about more planned changes to Tavern Brawl and the Arena rewards system here. The Grand Tournament will be released in Hearthstone some time in August. You can check out one of the first-ever live games played using cards from the new expansion in the video below.