Blizzard’s Warcraft franchise is going to be getting an extra dose of the spotlight in 2016, with the live-action Warcraft flick directed by Duncan Jones due out next June. Meanwhile, World of Warcraft remains one of the biggest games on the planet, even with dwindling subscription numbers. But there’s another corner of the Warcraft universe that is positively flourishing: the online free-to-play collectible card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, which boasts more than 30 million registered accounts as of May 2015.
As with most ostensibly “free-to-play” games, Hearthstone is supported by micropayments and a steady flow of new content, but that content can be pricey — Blizzard faced some controversy last month when they announced that new Hearthstone character Magni Bronzebeard would cost players ten bucks to acquire. Now Blizzard has announced their next assault on Hearthstone players’ wallets: a new expansion, due out next month.
Blizzard announced Hearthstone: The Grand Tournament at an event in San Francisco earlier today, complete with the tongue-in-cheek trailer above (pirates riding parrots!). Blizzard says The Grand Tournament will add 130 new cards into the Hearthstone mix. Here’s the synopsis blurb from Blizzard:
When the Lich King and his undead Scourge threatened the world, the Argent Crusade called upon Azeroth’s mightiest heroes to prove their mettle in a magnificent tournament. Knights of all races flocked to Northrend, vying for glory in epic battles against fearsome monsters. Though the Lich King’s evil has been vanquished, the Grand Tournament continues… the competitive atmosphere’s just a bit more playful than it used to be.
That’s only a few of the 130 new cards The Grand Tournament will be bringing to the table, but there’s already a new ability on display called “Inspire.” Here’s what Blizzard has to say about Inspire: “Minions with the inspire keyword possess a special ability that may only be activated by using your Hero Power.” The Inspire cards on display in the cards above will let players “Add a random spell to your hand” and “Gain +1 Attack,” but there are surely plenty more variants to come.
In addition to the bevy of new cards, The Grand Tournament will also add a new board.
The Grand Tournament is the second full expansion pack Hearthstone has received, following up on 2014’s Goblins vs. Gnomes. There have also been two smaller adventure packs: Curse of Naxxramas and Blackrock Mountain. There’s no official pricing information for The Grand Tournament yet, but players will be able to purchase it using either real money or in-game gold, consistent with the earlier expansions.
Microtransactions remain a controversial subject among gamers, but clearly they aren’t chasing players away from Hearthstone. A few months ago a player named MattCauthron boasted on reddit about dropping around $3,400 on the game in one night, which netted him some 2,700 card packs. Hopefully he’d already paid his bills.
Hearthstone: The Grand Tournament will drop sometime in August, and the core game is available for PCs and mobile devices supporting Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, and Mac OS. You can read our review of Hearthstone right here.