Hearthstone is moving swiftly toward its 2016 World Championship event — group stages begin today, culminating in a series of finals matches during BlizzCon next week. BlizzCon finals for esports based around Blizzard games has become standard, but this may be the last year that will happen for Hearthstone.
That’s because Blizzard has announced a new yearlong format to its Hearthstone Championship Tour beginning in 2017. With the new system, each competitive season of Hearthstone will be tied to a specific content release. As such, the season as a whole will more closely follow the game’s new standard format, where certain card sets rotate out of play at the beginning of each new year.
To put it clearer: Assuming Blizzard keeps up the current pace of releasing three Hearthstone add-ons a year, there will be one competitive season tied to each of those releases. This ensures a fresh meta-strategy for each tournament and chances for new players to get a chance at esports fame with new deck types.
However, Hearthstone’s third add-on of the year generally launches after BlizzCon, which means the World Championship can no longer take place at BlizzCon. Instead, the 2017 Hearthstone World Championship will actually happen in early 2018, just before the new year of standard format begins.
Blizzard clarified to Polygon that BlizzCon in 2017 (and forward) will still feature Hearthstone esports events of some sort. It just will no longer be where the World Championship is held.
Beyond this big change, Blizzard said it also plans to do Global Season Championships for each competitive season, rather than sticking to regional championships only. As such, there will be more frequent international competition throughout the year. The total prize pool for the Hearthstone Championship Tour in 2017 will total over $2 million, including a $1 million prize pool for the World Championship and $250,000 prize pools for each Season Championship.
On top of the Hearthstone Championship Tour, which focuses on one-on-one competition, Blizzard will be introducing a new form of competitive play called the Hearthstone Global Games. In this format, teams of four will be formed to represent their country and take on teams of four from other countries.
You can find full information on Blizzard’s plan for the 2017 Hearthstone competitive season on this blog post. For those following along with the 2016 Hearthstone World Championship, Blizzard is currently running a promotion offering free card packs in exchange for choosing who you think will win.