Blizzard announced the 2023 Hearthstone esports program with over 70% cuts in prizes. What does the new competitive system look like?
The much-anticipated Hearthstone esports announcement for 2023 is finally here. After several delays, the team released the road map for competitive Hearthstone in 2023. Buckle up, the road ahead is rough.
Hearthstone esports in 2023
The announcement on the tenth year of competitive Hearthstone has left many hearts broken. The program will continue to support a competitive scene for constructed and Battlegrounds, but the ecosystem and its budget will shrink significantly.
This year, players will see seven major Hearthstone esports events with a combined prize total of $650,000. This is a major budget reduction considering that the program gave nearly $3,000,000 in prizes in 2022.
Constructed Hearthstone will have three Masters Tour Seasonal Championships leading into the 2023 $500,000 World Championship. Meanwhile, Battlegrounds will see three Lobby Legends events with $50,000 in prizing each.
2023 Hearthstone esports system
The Hearthstone esports ecosystem for 2023 will be divided into three seasons for both constructed and Battlegrounds. Players will accumulate points via ladder finishes each month. The top four point earners in each server within each season will make it to the respective Masters Tour Seasonal Championship or Lobby Legends event.
Furthermore, there will be four wildcard slots for the top four point earners of any region during that season. The higher a player ends on ladder, the more points they will get each month. The totals will reset after the end of each season.
Seasonal championships and World Championship
Each seasonal championship will award one World Championship invitation to the winner. Hearthstone esports confirmed that seasonal events will not have a designated prize pool during 2023. The total prize pool for constructed Hearthstone esports will be concentrated on the World Championship, which will award $500,000.
The remaining five World Championship slots will be awarded via ladder points. The top earner from each server during the qualification period of January through November will be invited. Furthermore, the two players with the most competitive points during that period for any region will get an invitation.
This means that the World Championship invitations for Hearthstone esports in 2023 will have the following split:
- 3 Masters Tour Seasonal Championship winners
- 3 Top competitive point earners for each region
- 2 Top competitive point earners worldwide
Hearthstone Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends
Each of the three Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends events will have a $50,000 prize pool. Lobby Legends "will focus on one main Battlegrounds" event per expansion, according to Blizzard.
While each Lobby Legends tournament will award the same prizes it did in 2022, Hearthstone esports cut the number of events from nine to three. This resulted in the total prizing budget getting reduced by over two-thirds. The 2022 Battlegrounds competitive scene had $500,000 in prizes. This year, it will have $150,000.
Competitive seasons and event schedule
Spring Season - Qualification Period: January - March
- Masters Tour Spring Championship - April or May
- Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends Spring Championship - May
Summer Season - Qualification Period: April - June
- Masters Tour Summer Championship - August or September
- Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends Summer Championship - July or August
Fall Season - Qualification Period: July - September
- Masters Tour Fall Championship - November
- Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends Fall Championship - November
According to the official announcement, the 2023 program aims to set Hearthstone esports up for "sustainability as it turns a decade old." The post also includes some FAQs, which is understanding because this announcement created more doubts than certainties about the scene in 2023.
Hearthstone esports will return to Twitch in 2023 since the YouTube exclusivity deal ended in December 2022. However, every major event will also be broadcasted on YouTube, as it happened with Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends.
The NetEase ramification
The Hearthstone esports scene was enormous in China and produced many Masters Tours champions in 2021 and 2022. With the Blizzard and NetEase agreement ending, it seems that Hearthstone will not be available in mainland China in 2023.
The Hearthstone Esports team posted that the cuts on the program for 2023 were evaluated before this event. While players residing in mainland China will not be eligible to compete, the Hearthstone esports team is actively seeking options for those players.
"We began evaluating the size of the program before we understood we weren’t going to be able to reach an agreement with NetEase. As we’ve shared, we are committed to Chinese players and are actively exploring alternatives for bringing our games back to China in the future."