Talking 2022 Hearthstone esports with Blizzard's Abar
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Hearthstone esports in 2022 will feature the final year of Grandmasters alongside updates to the World Championship and Masters Tours. Additionally, the Hearthstone Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends events will debut in the new year. Hearthstone Product Lead Alex “Abar” Barhorst sat down with Upcomer to talk about these plans.

A chat with Abar

Prior to working in Hearthstone, Abar competed in the circuit himself. His passion for the game led him to working in esports production for the title.

In terms of how Hearthstone evolved over time, Abar noted that because he was so ingrained in the esports scene, it allowed him to see different evolutions of the program itself. He said listening and talking to the players throughout that entire experience allowed him to gather feedback.

2022 Hearthstone World Championship player pool
2022 Hearthstone World Championship player pool. | Provided by Blizzard Entertainment

Hearthstone esports in 2022

In 2022, Hearthstone Grandmasters will conclude with two final seasons. Season 1 will occur over a span of four weeks, and the top four players of each region from Season 1 will duke it out in Season 2.

Hearthstone Grandmasters: Last Call will feature the top regional players of Season 1 alongside the top four players with the most Masters Tour Points.

Grandmasters: Last Call information
Grandmasters: Last Call information. | Provided by Blizzard Entertainment

According to Abar, more than 15,000 unique Hearthstone players participated in a Masters Tour or qualifier event over the course of 2021. At the grassroots levels, there was a lot of interest among competitors.

“To be able to participate in the Hearthstone World Championship — that’s a goal for a lot of people, and so we wanted to create that direct pathway through the Masters Tour circuit,” he said. “For players to be able to get there, for there to be a more direct reward for their participation in the ecosystem and their dedication to the game — we’re hoping that we achieve that with what we’re trying to accomplish in 2022.”

Masters Tour invitations
HearthstoneMasters Tour invitations. | Provided by Blizzard Entertainment

Abar also noted that he had a lot of fun memories with Grandmasters over the years. He explained that one of the challenges is the significant amount of resources required for Hearthstone esports. When he became the Product Lead of the program, he wanted to do the right thing by as many unique Hearthstone players as possible.

“There’s so many out there who are interested in participating in Hearthstone esports,” he said. “And so I think that’s what we have in mind for — is a really good direction to better align with our goal of creating opportunities for as many people as we possibly can.”

Increasing opportunities and participation in 2022 Hearthstone esports

Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends as a global event for ladder players will also align with the goal of creating more opportunities. Battlegrounds: Lobby Legends will be one-off tournament and feature a $500,000 prize pool across multiple events.

“I think participation is a big goal there as well,” Abar said. “We’ve heard a lot of feedback from Battlegrounds players that they want a reason to truly dedicate themselves to the game and to aspire to be the very best Battlegrounds player in the world.”

Therefore, Abar’s team hopes to create some content that will allow players to demonstrate their passion and skills. He said he wants to give them a reason and the drive to be as successful as possible in the Hearthstone Battlegrounds space.

2022 total prizing
2022 total prizing. | Provided by Blizzard Entertainment

Gathering community feedback 

In terms of taking player and community feedback and using that to move forward, Abar said he’s constantly listening to the community.

“I try and soak up as much as I can, from what I hear from all sorts of players — seasoned, experienced, successful players or new up-and-comers who are interested in getting more involved.” Abar added he usually begins with parsing through all of that information.

“And then I, of course, welcome discussion internally amongst our team here in Hearthstone esports. I also routinely communicate with the casters and get their thoughts. They always have sort of a very involved perspective themselves. And then, of course, I oftentimes engage directly back with the community on social media.”

Abar noted that if he has questions or wants the community to elaborate on what they would like to see in the scene, he gives them space to talk with him directly. “So it starts with a whole lot of listening, and then we see if we can take some ideas out of that and turn them into action,” he said.

While fans and players anticipate 2022, they can catch some 2021 Hearthstone Grandmasters World Championship action over on YouTube. The tournament features players duking it out within the Fractured in Alterac Valley expansion.

Amy Chen is an esports journalist and enthusiast who specializes in in-depth interviews and breaking news. A University of Toronto and Humber College graduate, she is passionate about building up the Canadian esports industry. Her current favorite games are Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, and she has always had a soft spot for World of Warcraft!
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