The Grim Future of HoTS

Blizzard’s MOBA variant, Heroes of the Storm has likely heard its death knell in the not-too-far-off future. While Blizzard hasn’t officially shut the game down just yet, the future of the once-hyped MOBA is looking quite dim.

Just this week, Blizzard issued a statement announcing that both the Heroes Global Championships and Heroes of the Dorm will not be renewed for a 2019 season. Now, if this seems a little too close to the wire for you, you’re probably right.

To say that Blizzard was cavalier in the way that they went about notifying the playerbase would be almost as far off the mark as Blizzard’s treatment of HotS has been over the last few years.

If you’re unaware, Blizzard announced this bombshell through a social media post and sent out direct emails to their professional players at the same time. This all came only shortly over a month after they assured their tournament organizers and players that all funding and planning would continue into 2019 as usual for the esports scene.

More worrisome than that, however, is the comments that Blizzard made regarding the development cycle of the game.

Alongside gutting the professional scene, Blizzard will be significantly scaling down the development team and the cadence at which the MOBA receives regular updates. They’ve thus far avoided using the phrase “maintenance mode”, but it’s hard to look at the decision as anything but.

On one hand, HotS probably won’t suffer much for the casual gamer should the cadence of hero releases slow down somewhat. After all, with as many as there are in the game currently, it’s not as if the roster is lacking in quantity or variety. The same can be said for the maps. There’s a plethora of them within the game – so much so that we can’t see a slower cadence harming the quality of the game much.

But that’s not the real issue here, is it?

The real issue is that for everyone but the most casual players, the announced changes are a massive kick to the nuts from a company that has pushed themselves to be about “community” and “family” as much as possible.

It’s perfectly fine for Blizzard to reallocate their priorities and resources – it is their game after all. But the manner in which they’ve gone about it could have been executed in a far more appropriate manner than simply pulling the rug out from under their fanbase.

What this occurrence should really be is a stark reminder that when it comes to any form of esport, the company that owns the IP ultimately runs everything. Even third-party organizers are merely a drop in the bucket when the makers of the game decide to pull the plug – and while we sympathize with those who’ve suddenly found themselves overnight, we hope that this occurrence is not the first of many.

When we look back over the last several years, there has been one prominent rise that companies have scrambled to issue funding toward: Esports.

Suddenly it seemed like every new major release had to be paired up with a competitive scene complete with a tourney, commentators, and player celebrities.

But here’s the cold hard truth: not every game needs nor deserves an esport component. In fact, one could argue that the realm of esports themselves is still far too green to determine just what genres will stick and for how long. And in the case of Heroes of the Storm – that much has already proved true.

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