It’s Christmas in Heroes of the Storm. It’s always Christmas. In a game that finally feels abandoned, nobody seems eager to take the five necessary seconds to click the button on Blizzard’s side that would change the current season from Winter Veil to whatever comes next.
Do you remember Heroes of the Storm? Maybe you still play it… hundreds of thousands still do. The game was Blizzard’s official foray into the MOBA genre of video games after companies like Valve had capitalized on a game type that originally spawned from Blizzard’s own Warcraft 3. A ton of resources were thrown at Heroes of the Storm, but a focus on casual play combined with an internal success gauge based on e-Sports views would ultimately mean the game was killed. And when I say “killed”, it’s a complicated story.
Heroes of the Storm is an excellent game. It’s tremendously fun, the ARAM mode is instant joy, and the polish on the product is fantastic. It’s old school Blizzard, and maybe the last old school Blizzard game released alongside Overwatch. The game did well enough, but under the direction of director Dustin Browder, it was too slow in implementing important MOBA features like high-quality matchmaking algorithms and a banning phase for hero drafts. So while Blizzard had never abandoned a game before, one of the very first things new Blizzard president J Allen Brack did when taking over from Mike Morhaime, was to essentially end a Blizzard product.
Combined with the announcement of Diablo Immortal, the ending of Heroes of the Storm could rightfully be considered the start of a new phase for Blizzard Entertainment – one of severe decline. Yet because the Heroes of the Storm team had created such a wealth of material, the cadence of content releases for the game didn’t collapse as many expected. Rather instead, the game actually saw a boost of players due to great decision-making by a development team that was clearly in shock their game had been killed in a public relations fiasco, while it seemed it was still successful and able to continue on. For a dead game, the updates and “nexus anomalies” sure did keep going, and the player base actually seemed to grow.
Essentially, Heroes of the Storm was put on life support because while successful, it wasn’t successful enough. Tragically for Blizzard, a pandemic was on the way, and any success at all would have been worth supporting. Nowadays, Blizzard is essentially a company living off re-releases of content made decades ago by a more competent past. Even today, the most popular Heroes of the Storm post ever placed on its Reddit is a word-for-word parody of J Allen Brack’s announcement that they would be slowing down the game called HotS.
I sometimes go rewatch the various Heroes of the Storm trailers, and I'm always floored by how well they encapsulate each character in a minute or two. All just so perfect. pic.twitter.com/8bNAST9kKE
— Portergauge 🏳️🌈 (spoilers) (@Portergauge) April 17, 2021
It seems odd now that a game which still has wait times in the seconds for ARAM on North American and European servers is so abandoned that it can’t even switch off of Christmas mode. It seems further odd that a game made by Activision Blizzard would be so abandoned. How can it possibly be that a game that continues to be supported by, at least, hundreds of thousands of players, can be this neglected by a major studio? The only possible answer is that the studio just doesn’t care anymore.
And with that, we’ll leave you with the still poignant post which is the all-time most upvoted thread on Heroes of the Storm Reddit:
“We’re constantly changing and evolving not only our video game purchases, but how we support and contribute to those game purchases. This evolution is vital to our ability to continue doing what we love to do—buying great games—and it’s what makes a video game consumer a consumer.
Over the past several years, the work of evaluating Blizzard purchases and seeing poor decisions from a previously stalwart company has led to new games and other products that we’re proud to have purchased. These are games such as Path of Exile, DotA 2, and even donations to private servers like Nostalrius. We now have more non-Blizzard, high-quality options than at any point in video gaming history. We’re also at a point where we need to take some of our hard-earned dollars and bring their marketplace power to other developers. As a result, we’ve made the difficult decision to shift some of our money from Activision Blizzard to other companies, and we’re excited to see the passion, knowledge, and experience that they’ll bring to us and even eSports professionals who depend on them for their livelihood (and I know we’re thinking about all of them and their families right now before Christmas). This isn’t the first time we’ve had to make tough choices like this. Games like Fallout 76, Star Wars Battlefront 2, Dungeon Keeper Mobile, SimCity 2013, and more would have been highly profitable had we not made similar decisions in the past.
Despite the change in Blizzard’s direction, Heroes of the Storm remained a love letter that linked us to a time when Blizzard made consumer-centric decisions based around quality and commitment, rather than shitty mobile rip offs for Chinese markets. We’ll continue actively supporting Heroes of the Storm with playtime, reminiscing, and a cadence that our community loves, though our feelings toward you as company and your games will change. Ultimately, we’re setting up our nostalgia for long-term sustainability. We’re so grateful for the support your company has shown from the beginning, and our fond memories will continue to support the legend of Blizzard past with the same passion, dedication, and creativity that your former employees shared with us in making the old Blizzard so great.
We’ve also evaluated our plans around future Blizzard games—after looking at all of our priorities and options in light of the change in how you support games long-term, the Blizzard consumers and Blizzard fans will not return in 2019. This was another very difficult decision for us to make. The love that the community has for these IPs is deeply felt by everyone who waits on them, but we ultimately feel this is the right decision versus moving forward in a way that would not meet the standards that players and fans have come to expect… i.e. your shitty mobile game plan and predatory kiddie-gambling strategies rather than the quality and commitment we expect, as well as crappy expansions with little communication with your communities, killing profitable games that aren’t profitable enough, etc, etc.
While we don’t make these decisions lightly, we do look to the future excited about what the decisions will mean for our other game developers and all the projects they have in the works. We appreciate all of those old Blizzard games and everyone who worked on them in old Blizzard, and look forward to sharing many more epic gaming experiences made by other companies that were inspired by your old values and old talent.
Good luck with your stock and your eSports,
Blizzard Consumers and Blizzard Fans”
It seems like HotS’ Reddit page was pretty good at fortune-telling, those couple of years ago. Now we’ll just watch and see when Heroes of the Storm moves into the future, or if it will always be Winter Veil 2020 inside the first game Blizzard ever truly abandoned.
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