The frog looks worried for a reason. Blizzard's alarmingly moreish free-to-play virtual collectible card-battling game, Hearthstone, will consume untold man and frog hours when it goes into open beta next month. Blizzard's Chief Creative Chap Rob Pardo made the announcement at Blizzcon, which also hosted a Blizzard "fireside chat" containing a few interesting tidbits about the closed beta, and their plans for Hearthstone next year.
A version of Hearthstone for Android, iPhone and Windows 8 Touch is being developed for 2014. As is traditional for this sort of CCG, there will be expansion sets, "each featuring packs full of exciting new cards." More unusually, these expansions will be "supplemented" with single player adventures featuring "a smaller set of cards that can be unlocked" that will "provide new strategies to explore."
More than a million players have taken part in the closed beta, which means Blizzard have gathered plenty of data. Encouragingly, 44% of top-tier players reached that level without paying any money for card packs. As we mentioned in our feature about the best and worst of microtransactions , the ability to take on the best players without having to pay is normally a good sign for a competitive free-to-play game. Balance tweaks and ranked play were also discussed, which you'll find in the fireside chat summary .
I you haven't seen it, Hearthstone is essentially a speedy, streamlined and accessible take on Magic: The Gathering with characters from World of WarCraft lore. You can find out and sign up for the beta on the Hearthstone site . It's going to be huge.