Regardless of how fun it is, HOTS needs to make money to thrive. The bad news is that it hasn’t been making as much money as we (both the community and Blizzard) would’ve liked, so unfortunately things need to change. The good news is I’m here to tell you about a guaranteed three-step program that will make the changes that HOTS needs to not only inject a wave of new blood into the community, but also to make the game itself more profitable.
- HOTS’s roster is comprised of Blizzard icons from a variety of universes, allowing players to use their favorite heroes or villains to duke it out against similar characters.
- Many different playstyles, several of which are radical departures from the standard MOBA mindset, are featured.
- Free Rotation only offers a fraction of the whole and Try Mode is a poor indicator of how a character performs with a full team in a normal setting.
- Obtaining a character to play in a live match involves: getting lucky with the free rotation, a huge grind (Gold), vanishingly rare drops (Chests), a Cost Ineffective Direct Real Money Purchase (Gems), or a Limited Cost Effective Real Money Purchase (Hero Bundle, Gem Sale).
- Make Unowned Characters available to play in all modes, but unable to gain Experience from matches (and therefore cannot generate levels or Chests) or access Collection items (and therefore cannot be customized, forcing them to use the default Skin, Mount, Announcer, Spray, ect). Matches completed with Unowned Characters would still count for Quests and earn Gold from completed matches.
- Change the Free Rotation from Temporary Availability to Temporary Ownership, allowing players to build progression on characters that they have not obtained and play around with their Collection items for a limited time.
One of the biggest reasons that people play HOTS is to snap on the fandom goggles and play as a specific character. However, when it’s a pain to even try those characters in real games against opponent teams, the feature falls flat. None of the options to obtain characters for real gameplay are attractive or convenient except MAYBE the Hero Bundle/Gem Sale (and even then new players are unlikely to sink money on a game/character that they’re not even sure they like).
Opening up the roster in this manner would expand the the game on an unprecedented level for all players, exponentially increasing the size of the community via improved newbie retention. Additionally, it will encourage new and old players alike to try new things, leading them to shell out for the things that they enjoy. Also, as an extra side benefit, it would immediately silence “pay 2 win” complaints because players would no longer have to purchase characters to play them.
- Gold allows players to obtain Heroes without Real Money.
- Shards allow players to obtain Customization Items without Real Money.
- Experience earns Chests, which allow players to obtain Customization Items without Real Money.
- Gems allow players to obtain Heroes and other limited-time items if they don’t want to spend the time grinding up Gold, Shards, or Chests.
- Gems can be obtained with Real Money or a whole bunch of Experience.
- Boosts can be purchased with Gems to increase a player’s Gold and Experience throughput, earning them content in a shorter amount of time.
- Events feature additional special Event Items that are available for a limited time.
- Ranked Seasons feature special Ranked Reward Mounts that can be earned by participating in Ranked play.
- Many heroes cost 10,000 Gold and that takes a while to grind up (even when Boosted).
- Shards are very difficult to come by via duplicates because there are so many chaff items (emojis, sprays, warbanners, avatars, ect) that duplicates are extremely rare unless you’ve already been through hundreds (or thousands) of Chests. (Update: although this is less of an issue now that you can exchange Gold for Shards)
Gems are not versatile enough and can only buy a handful of things at designated times.Solved!
Additionally, Gem prices are excessively high for how narrow their application is.Solved!
- For 9/10ths of a year, all Event Items do is take up disk space for the majority of the player population because they are uncommonly used and cannot be obtained for use outside of their given Event.
- Past Ranked Reward Mounts cannot be obtained via any method.
Gem-only skins and mounts must be purchased in Bundles, forcing players who only want one item to buy multiple.Solved!
- Allow Gems to purchase any individual item at any time, even if it’s introduced in a Bundle.
Adjust Gem prices to be based on 50% of an item’s Shard value.Close enough!
- Make Event Items available at all times of the year, obtainable via Gems outside of the Event and obtainable via normal methods (Chests/Shards) during their associated Event.
- Allow past Ranked Reward Mounts to be obtained via Gems or, if the Ranked Reward Mount is more than two years old, obtainable via normal methods (Chests/Shards).
HOTS’s financial woes are driven by two major factors, and the one we’re going to talk about first is the weakness of Gems (and we’ll get to the second factor later). The player’s ability to obtain everything they could ever want with the appropriate time investment (via Experience, Gold, and Shards) means that if a monetary shortcut is to exist, it has to be convenient.
Unfortunately, Gems are not convenient. Skins and Mounts must be Featured before they can be purchased with Gems, drastically undercutting the customer’s ability to give Blizzard money whenever they want to. The result is players sitting on piles of Gems, hoping to see something Featured that they actually care about enough to spend money on. In the meantime, they earn Chests through normal gameplay, running the risk of obtaining the item they want outright or gathering enough Shards to purchase it without spending their Gems. The fix is simple: encourage people to spend money by allowing them to spend their money. There are at least eight items off of the top of my head that I would buy for Gems if I just could, and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment (especially where Event items and past Ranked Reward Mounts are concerned). I’ve always been frustrated by the decision to put all of HOTS’s eggs into the Loot Box Microtransaction Basket, and the recent cuts to HOTS’s budget are a shining example of how it’s not working out how it should be.
Good news, everyone: Gems can now buy any individual item at any time (plus bundles) and Chests and Shards can be obtained via Gold, overall massively increasing the users’s ability to get what they want.
Unfortunately, limited-availability items (especially Ranked Rewards) are still very difficult to come by, so here’s to hoping that Blizzard grants greater access to those as well.
- HOTS 2.0 separated variable Skins and Mounts into individual items, giving the Collection the potential to be expanded easily with many low-effort Variants for Skins and Mounts to give players a much wider variety of customizations to obtain.
- New Skins were released at more or less the same rate and there are very few new Skin Variants that were made from existing Skins.
- Add enough low-effort Variants for existing Skins and Mounts to bring every Skin and Mount up to at least five Variants each.
- Commit to a content pipeline that adds at least one Variant to each existing Skin and Mount per year.
The second part of HOTS’s financial woes comes from a lack of substantial customizations to obtain. HOTS 2.0 was implemented with the promise that we’d be getting a ton of stuff added to existing Heroes and Mounts, but that just didn’t happen - it mostly ensured that newer heroes would get five Variants instead of the usual three and added a bunch of non-Skin, non-Mount stuff that goes mostly unused.
This is especially frustrating because making Variants is really easy: pop open the base skin’s Diffuse textures (and maybe their Emissives), block out what you’re not supposed to change (like skin or lights), and just play with Hue and Saturation until you’ve got something that works. Here’s some quick and dirty examples that I whipped up for Raynor’s Special Ordnance (formerly Master Raynor, for old farts like me):
HOTS would benefit from a flood of low-effort Hue-Shift or Recolor Variants like these for Skins and Mounts because it would give players more opportunities to customize and personalize their loadout. Skin/Mount synergy is probably the #1 driving factor behind most players’ cosmetic choices, so the more options we have, the better.
As an aside, a reminder that I’'m saying “low-effort” and not “low-quality” - I’m not suggesting that HOTS should start cranking out stuff that’s deliberately bad, just working from existing resources rather than starting from scratch to make more content for less capital.
I feel that HOTS has always been the king of “almost there”. It’s had so many good ideas, so many good design decisions, so many good efforts - but it always falls short of the competition, and its financial achievement has been no different.
Here is a comic that I professionally edited to serve as a hamfisted visual example (with apologies to Scott Ramsoomair) The comic’s visual example no longer applies because the particular issue the comic was referencing has been amended. However, the apologies to Mr. Ramsoomair are still valid and heartfelt.
The moral of the story is that HOTS doesn’t offer enough to the player to hook them and keep them hooked when all it has to do is make things more available. EDIT: Granted, the changes to Gems/Gold/Shards/Chests have improved the situation significantly. However, for a game that’s focused on being able to play whoever you like from major Blizzard icons, the roster is still dauntingly limited for new players.
If it can manage to change that, then it’ll succeed in the long-term - just like its competitors have.