Trending Online Games for 2016

Because of the prevalence of online-focused gaming in the past several years, it comes as no surprise that this sub-genre is still throwing punches. There are many such games that are making their presence known in the industry today; but for now we’re going to focus on one game in particular, and that game is Hearthstone.

Blizzard’s digital card game has, over the two years since its initial release, been met with a massive amount of success and support from consumers. Hearthstone owes a great deal of its success due to the fact that it creates sizable appeal across multiple metrics. Not only is it a card game that is fairly easy to pick up and start learning, but it also manages to be complex and diverse enough that high level of play and deck creation are very much rewarded. This combination of a low barrier to entry as well as a high ceiling on what any given player can achieve or accomplish has resulted in the success that it enjoys today.

That being said, Hearthstone doesn’t appear to be resting on its laurels just yet. Along with the new expansion coming out in a few weeks (Whispers of the Old Gods) a new facet of play is going to be implemented as well. It was a few months ago when Blizzard announced their plan to divide both casual and ranked play into two distinct categories: standard and wild. The wild format is one that players of the game will be highly familiar with; in fact they won’t notice any change at all, save the new influx of cards from Whispers of the Old Gods. This is because wild is a format that simply includes every collectable card that Hearthstone has ever offered, from the classic set, to the adventure sets, to the expansions.

By contrast, standard is the format that promises actual, tangible change. The way that to format is slated to function is that only certain sets of cards will be eligible for use: the classic set in addition to the card sets from the most recent year. So, upon release, standard format will include the classic set, Blackrock Mountain, The Grand Tournament, and League of Explorers, while both Naxxramas and Goblins vs. Gnomes will be only available for use in the wild format.

This change is nothing if not an exciting one. Hearthstone has gotten to the point where it has so many available cards that in-game interactions can become rather ridiculous with all the options that exist, and this separation between a wild and standard format will introduce a whole new environment where new decks will emerge and the way the game itself will be shaken up.

For those not as familiar with the game, the prospect of taking cards out of circulation may seem like the opposite of exciting, but there is a lot of nuance to this change that may not be immediately apparent. The primary reason that the introduction of the standard format is a healthy change for Hearthstone is that by regulating which cards are available, Blizzard forces players to adapt and make new strategies and decks rather than relying on the ones that have been in the wheelhouse for some time.

The two sets that will not be available in standard—Naxxramas and Goblins vs. Gnomes—have some of the highest value cards in the game, and by removing them from the pool, it makes room for other cards to be played that typically are not seen as often because they just aren’t as strong as the cards from those two sets.

This change is a necessary one for Hearthstone if it wants to move forward as a fun and competitive game, and the future for it looks promising.