Is Hearthstone Pay-To-Win?


For those of you living under a rock, Hearthstone is Blizzard’s latest effort. It’s a card game based off of characters from World of Warcraft and it is ludicrously addictive. It has achieved such high levels of success thanks largely to it’s simplicity yet intricate gameplay; easy enough for newcomers but plenty of deep strategies for card gaming veterans. Just like in real life TCGs, players can expand their deck with booster packs, hopefully containing a rare card. Players essentially have two ways of attaining packs: the in game currency (gold) or with actual money. Obviously using real money will get packs faster but will rob players of the experience gained from grinding for gold. Hence we reach the question any game with micro-transactions must be asked, is it pay-to-win?

One pack costs 100 gold, which can be quite expensive. Every 3 wins you get 10 gold. For all of you math majors out there, that’s 30 wins for one booster pack. Thankfully there are quests, certain objectives to be completed in game that award between 30 to even 100 gold. Players can only have 3 quests at a time because they don’t have a time limi. If completing quests isn’t your thing or you’re simply impatient then you can purchase multiple packs at once in exchange for your hard earned cash. There are 4 bundles: 2 packs for $2.99, 7 for $9.99, 15 for $19.99, or 40 packs for $49.99. Clearly using real money is much more convenient for those who would rather play than spend their waking existence grinding. Speaking form experience the option to purchase large amounts of packs at once is hard to resist.


Now that the game is in open beta we’re seeing a lot of new players trying their hand at Hearthstone, but those electing to not spend money are suffering. Immediately players are given all the basic cards and a hand full of the class specific cards. There is more than enough for them to make a competent deck, yet they are having difficulty playing against fellow newcomers who choose to buy packs. They can’t win games and therefore cannot collect gold. Not only that, but they’re also having a hard time completing the majority of quests. The reality is that those choosing to buy large quantities of packs get off to a faster start than their thrifty counterparts. The argument can be made that it doesn’t matter about the cards but the players, in some card games I would agree but Hearthstone is a different beast. Skill and smart decision-making are absolutely a large part of success but players need the right tools to execute those strategies and combos. Hence, the more cards the more options and possible strategies to be implemented.

That’s not say there are no benefits to grinding. Learning to win with the absolute most basic cards provides experience that can’t be bought, but is definitely a long-term investment. When players start climbing the ranked ladder their grinding will pay off, provided they have a competent deck. And that’s the conundrum we arrive at, how to attain a good deck by grinding without spoiling ourselves with an abundance of cards ? I recommend spending no more than $50 if you want that comfy start. Buying the 40 packs will give you plenty of cards to craft a solid deck and at least one legendary card. There is no need to spend any more than that for beginners.

All the good Hearthstone players don’t spend too much money on the game, they craft cards with arcane dust (attained by destroying cards you already own) and grind out like crazy. Someone can go ahead and spend hundreds of dollars buying packs but they won’t know how to use them because they didn’t go through the trials of playing against them or without them. In the end the answer isn’t exactly clear cut; no Hearthstone is not pay-to-win but spending a few bucks when starting won’t hurt either.

The Late Night Gamer was sent to the Shadow Realm after losing a children’s card game. Follow us on and !

Tagged: Blizzard, card game, free to play, freenium, hearthstone, pc, TCG, trading card game, , World of Warcraft, wow

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