Hearthstone and the dangers of closed beta

Everyone out there at this point has probably heard the name Hearthstone. Most often it has been accompanied by the words “beta key” and “PLS.” Why is this? Well the game was revealed recently in a form that seemed to be complete through a number of gaming personalities. Being a blizzard game, everyone clambered to find out what it was all about. Seeing the footage, people started to inquire about playing the game themselves, however as everyone soon found out, the only way to play the game was to have exclusive beta access via a beta key. This was a perfectly normal practice, so those wanting to play the game simply opted in to the beta and sat patiently by their email pressing the refresh button hoping one would eventually come there way. 

At first, it was a civil process of a handful of people wishing they could get into the game via email while many others just ignored it waiting on a full release. However, the more knowledge of this game was shared, the more the hype built up. Soon people were begging for access to the game, there was even a crazy rumor a hearthstone key could be dropped as an item in Diablo 3. As if the Hearthstone craze wasn’t enough at this point…..

Then came the giveaways. Instead of just giving out the keys to those that signed up for the beta, Blizzard handed them out to fan-sites, Youtubers, and streamers. From there, the keys were given out in massive giveaways where thousands of people jumped through crazy hoops for the chance to get into the game. People were sitting through 24 hour streams with giveaways at the end, praising Ohmwrecker on Reddit, and doing tons of crazy things to enter the beta. At this point, it was no longer about people wanting to get into the game, the community had built up hearthstone to be a promise land that only those with the sacred keys could enter its hallowed ground. While this is of course, an exaggeration, it is safe to say that hearthstone built up a large amount of hype. 

The question is, is the hype caused by this good or bad?

While the pros are the obvious reasons that the game gets good publicity and people are more likely to give the game a shot, there are substantial negatives. 

Will the game live up to the hype? With any game that has this level of hype behind it, it can be hard for the game to meet the expectations that were created for it. (Looking at you Duke Nukem Forever) There is a very real chance that once the general population make it into the game, it simply might not be what they were expecting so they just never play it. There is also the possibility that hype is so high right now in closed beta, that by the time release finally rolls around, no one will care anymore. People that didn’t get their keys will simply go elsewhere. There is inherent danger at the game’s highest point of interest being at a stage where it cant be PLAYED. Exclusivity also can cause the games community to be split. Those who got in the game early on one side, and those new at release on the other. The early access veterans look down on the newcomers for being “noobs” while the newcomers resent the veterans for getting a “head start.” The fact that everyone had to jump through hoops to get into the game, also causes a since of entitlement from the community. These and other factors, lead to potential pitfalls forming due to the hype. 

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE hearthstone, and have put a pretty solid amount of time put into it. I enjoy being able to play a quick game or two on the fly ,and I think it has potential to overcome the hype train and be a highly acclaimed Blizzard classic. There is just a certain amount of worry to be had when this much hype builds up on something. Before you go crazy throwing your money at the screen expecting the greatest game of all time, actually enjoy the game for what it is.