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What do we know about Hearthstone Esports for 2023? Putting the puzzle together cover image

What do we know about Hearthstone Esports for 2023? Putting the puzzle together

#News

The community is still waiting on the Hearthstone Esports announcement for 2023. Today we put together -the few- puzzle pieces we have.

So, we have already celebrated New Year's, and we still don't have a Hearthstone Esports announcement for 2023. For over a year now, we knew that 2023 would be a turning point for Hearthstone Esports. What's going on, and more importantly, what do we know about Hearthstone Esports in 2023?
Firebat, Hearthstone's first World Champion (2014) - Image via Redbull
Firebat, Hearthstone's first World Champion (2014) - Image via Redbull

Hearthstone Esports: what's happened?

So, ever since 2014, Hearthstone fans have enjoyed their favorite card game's Esports scene. Starting with Dreamhack, Redbull and other sponsored circuits, to evolving into the complex HCT ecosystem in 2016 and finally turning into the Grandmasters system, Hearthstone Esports has gone thru a lot.
The Hearthstone Grandmasters ecosystem, together with Masters Tours (and the 2022 Seasonal Championships), has been the standard for the game's esports scene since 2019. This came to an end when on December 2021, Abar, Product Manager for Hearthstone Esports, announced that Grandmasters would cease to exist after 2022.
Grandmasters phased out from Hearthstone Esports - Image via Blizzard
Grandmasters phased out from Hearthstone Esports - Image via Blizzard
While this decision was taken as a positive sign by the competitive community, there was a catch. That announcement didn't mention how Hearthstone Esports would look like after the GM's termination. This is why 2023 felt and still feels like a turning point for the competitive scene. However, the postponed announcement is making many players uneasy.

Why the delay?

Being the announcement such a big deal for the esports scene, why isn't it out already? In my opinion, there are three main causes for the delay in the Hearthstone Esports announcement for 2023.
First of all, transitioning out of a system into a new one is never easy. If we add that the game viewership hasn't been thriving, this makes it harder for the Hearthstone Esports team to justify their budget. After all, esports is marketing and needs to deliver some kind of return.
During 2022, the Hearthstone Esports team explored different approaches to be as effective as they could in creating buzz. The new Battlegrounds scene and most events happening after content releases are just a part of that. But changing a whole system is much more complicated than tweaking one, so I think this played a part in the initial delay.

Deals and problems

To add to the mix, the most controversial deal Blizzard made about competitive Hearthstone has now ended. The 3-year YouTube exclusivity contract for Hearthstone Esports ended on December 2022. With viewership taking a tremendous hit after changing platforms, the possibility of getting back on Twitch creates some hope.
Hearthstone Esports World Championship viewership over the years - <a href="https://escharts.com/news/hearthstone-world-championship-2022-recap" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Image via EsportsCharts</a>
Hearthstone Esports World Championship viewership over the years - Image via EsportsCharts
In the same way, this creates hope for fans, negotiating new broadcast deals generates problems and delays. At the same time, the ESL agreement also ended on December 2022. The gaming company responsible for producing Hearthstone Esports tournaments and broadcasts for the last 2 years also needs to renegotiate terms.
As if this wasn't enough, I'm sure Blizzard's Chinese crisis that burst in November had a considerable impact on the matter. How can you announce a competitive system if you don't know if 25% of your competitive players (1 out of the 4 Hearthstone servers) will be able to play the game? Nathan Lyons-Smith, Hearthstone executive producer said Blizzard was "exploring possibilities to bring the game back", but nothing in concrete.
VKLiooon (China), Hearthstone 2019 World Champion - Image via Blizzard
VKLiooon (China), Hearthstone 2019 World Champion - Image via Blizzard
It seems that Hearthstone Esports is navigating the perfect storm right now. Still, it seems to be land ahoy.

What do we know about Hearthstone Esports for 2023?

The competitive community started asking questions about 2023 as early as August 2022, after every Masters Tour qualifier was over. If it's January and I'm writing this, you've guessed it, there is not much info out yet. However, along the way, we had some confirmations.
From Firebat to Bunnyhoppor, we've witnessed 9 Hearthstone World Champions. Will we have a tenth Hearthstone World Champion? According to a tweet from Abar in September, yes!
As simple as it sounds, this tweet gave relief to many competitive players. However, this seemed not to be enough to keep many former Grandmasters hooked, as many announced their retirement after the program ended.
Fast-forward to November, and the official Hearthstone Esports account tweeted that the announcement for 2023 would arrive in the "coming weeks". While we are still waiting for it, the tweet revealed an important piece of information too.
With this hint, we also learned that Ladder finishes for January would count towards the first Masters Tour and Battlegrounds Lobby Legends of 2023. Meaning that it seems that we should have those tournaments again this year.
But what finish? I know, with all these questions it seems we are still solving Castle Nathria mysteries, but trust me, I'm doing my best. It was not until this week that we got a new puzzle piece. In another Twitter thread begging for info, Abar disclosed that the Top 100 Ladder players for January would earn "something" towards the competitive system.
By the way, this applies to both Constructed and Battlegrounds.

What's next?

The full Hearthstone Esports announcement is expected to arrive within 10 days according to Abar. We only have a few pieces, but adding what the Hearthstone Esports Product Manager said in 2021 when he announced the end of Grandmasters, I can imagine a system resembling the HCT system in some way. Full transparency, this is a wild guess out of Abar's tweet.
That's all we've got for now, it ain't much, but it's honest work. Stay tuned to Esports.gg for more Hearthstone Esports news and updates. See you next time in the tavern.
Manuel "Rane" Delgado
Manuel "Rane" Delgado
Editor | Twitter @RaneTDF
Manuel “Rane” Delgado is an experienced Hearthstone caster, content creator, and tournament organizer from Argentina. He started his career on Esports casting his own tournaments, now he currently casts the Hearthstone Esports circuit for the LATAM region, among other content creation and tournament organization.