Blizzard Entertainment is best known for video games like World of Warcraft. Now, the company is moving into what it calls card-vs.-card warfare.
Blizzard laid its virtual cards on the table on Friday when it unveiled Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. The virtual card game is free on Windows, Macintosh and iPad.
In a twist that may appeal to its fan base, players build card decks centered on one of nine iconic Warcraft character classes and duel each other for fun, bragging rights, and the chance to win new cards.
Familiar, but New
"We've always loved collectible card games at Blizzard, so it's been exciting to bring everything we love about the genre to life in Hearthstone," said Mike Morhaime, CEO and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment. "We're putting a lot of focus into creating a fun new game that's easy to pick up and play, but also has a lot of depth."
Blizzard insists Hearthstone will be accessible to players regardless of their familiarity with Warcraft or collectible card games. Whether players prefer to wield magic or arms in battle, strike from the shadows or head on -- or have never given any of that much thought -- Blizzard promises they'll be able to jump right in, create a deck, and get in on the action.
Players can challenge each other in two competitive game modes. "Play Mode" features traditional head-to-head battles, with players facing off for a chance to increase their medal ranking and earn card packs along the way. Players can also enter "The Forge," where they start each match by building a deck from a new set of cards, and then use that deck to duel other Forge participants. In addition to the chance to win new cards, players can also purchase new card packs or disenchanting some of their existing cards to craft the ones they're missing.
Strengthening Fan Base
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said the strategy could be a good money maker for Blizzard.
"All game companies are looking for other revenue sources, given the way the sales have declined. Finding new ways to engage players and collect money is everybody's first priority," Enderle told us. "Leveraging an existing title with characters players recognize is a smart move."
Enderle envisions gamers playing Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft on planes or in other venues where they are not connected to the Internet. He sees it as a way to energize the fan base.
"This game gives Blizzard a new game that ties back into the original franchise. So if gamers want to play something else they are not always pulled away into another environment with another developer," Enderle said. "This not only strengthens the fan base but also expands their strategy."