The new Battlegrounds Seasonal Pass was rejected by the community under the impression it makes the game pay-to-win.

Hearthstone announced Battlegrounds Season 2 and, with it, the new Rewards Track and Season Pass. This new progression track exclusive to Battlegrounds brings free and premium rewards. The Battlegrounds Rewards Track was a much-awaited feature by the community. However, the introduction of a new Hearthstone currency, Runestones, creates a pay-wall that players say turns Battlegrounds into pay-to-win. What is all this about?

Hearthstone Battlegrounds Rewards Track

Battlegrounds got a Rewards Track, much like the one OG Hearthstone players enjoy. There are many similarities, one of them being the greed accusations trending on social media after its announcement.

Let’s start by explaining that the Battlegrounds Rewards Track is the game mode-specific progression system, and it has 40 levels. This Rewards Track allows players to unlock new Battlegrounds Emotes, Hero Skins, Strikes and more. The way to progress in the track is to do BG-specific Missions and accumulate Battlegrounds XP points.

According to the official blog post, players will receive 3 Missions a week to complete, each will grant 60 XP points. If they don’t complete them before the reset, the Missions will bank until there is room for them to appear. Top 4 placements also grant 10 XP points towards the rewards track.

Battlegrounds Season Pass, Runestones and Pay-to-Win 

As if this was “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” movie, there are three main characters in this controversy. However, in the end, they all revolve around the new Battlegrounds monetization model. While everyone knew it was coming, it seems that few expected it to be so harsh.

Starting Season 2, Battlegrounds players who want to get the privilege of choosing four Heroes in each game will need to pay for that with actual money. This is because the 2 extra Hero Slots are exclusive to the Season Pass that can’t be bought with Gold, unlike the old Perks.

The paid Season Pass comes with a ton of cosmetic loot, and Hearthstone promises that it will cost the equivalent of what Battlegrounds Perks cost. However, the fact that it's only purchasable via Runestones (AKA actual money) pissed off players and creators alike. With this monetization system, Battlegrounds is becoming Pay-to-win.

Why do players claim Battlegrounds will become pay-to-win?

While Battlegrounds as a whole is a skill-based game, only choosing from two Heroes cripples your chances for success. Right now, there are 85 Heroes available, with many of them not being competitive at all. If you want to have a chance to dodge a doomed selection, you now need to pay. 

Selecting 4 Heroes was always a premium feature, and I understand the logic behind that. But, until now, it was possible to unlock it just by playing and grinding Gold. Now, with the new Hearthstone Battlegrounds Season Pass behind a Runestones pay-wall, that is no longer an option.

What does Blizzard say about Battlegrounds' monetization model?

Blizzard was definitely expecting questions about this new monetization model, up to the point they included a FAQ in the Battlegrounds Rewards Track announcement. The first two questions go straight to the point. First, the ratification that Gold will become useless for Battlegrounds, and then, this:

Q: I used to be able to get Perks with Gold, why do I need to pay now?

A: We want Battlegrounds to be played and loved for years to come. This change will allow us to continue to support and make content for the growing Battlegrounds community. Though the ability to choose from among four heroes at the beginning of a match is changing to a paid-only feature, all players can still play Battlegrounds for free. We’re committed to maintaining hero and gameplay balance so that the choice from four heroes is more about optionality than power.

Additionally, as part of these changes, we're giving away more free Battlegrounds content than ever before. Advanced stats and base emotes are now available to all players, we’ve dissolved Hero Early Access to allow all players to play with new Heroes on patch day, and there are several free rewards on the Battlegrounds Track.

In total fairness, the explanation makes sense. Battlegrounds needs to make money to survive long term and the current cosmetic monetization model was not supplying that. Furthermore, the Battlegrounds team has indeed been pouring content at a larger and larger scale.

Hearthstone Battlegrounds Lead Designer Explains

John McIntyre, Hearthstone Battlegrounds Lead Designer, explained on Twitter how content updates have increased in size in the last patches.

Starting with the Quilboars update, which brought 17 new minions, growing up to the 75 Buddies update that included new features on top of that. Moreover, the game has seen much quality of life improvements, says John, such as Armor, Damage Cap and even content reveals.

How does this continue?

Despite all this, the community has not welcomed the announcement. Tweets and videos with criticisms and corporate greed accusations flooded social media to the point that little attention was given to the actual new content coming. Battlegrounds is losing its free-to-play status to become a pay-to-win game, according to content creators, and that seems to be driving the conversation. 

It wouldn’t be the first time that Blizzard (or any other company) backs up after negative feedback. It happened with the OG Hearthstone Rewards Track, and Battlegrounds seems to be facing a similar situation.

Stay tuned to to see how this topic evolves and to be up to date with all other Hearthstone news and updates. See you next time, in Bob’s Tavern.

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